lang ID for "*" (any language)

Peter Constable petercon at
Wed Jun 13 01:06:05 CEST 2012

I’m contemplating making a proposal to the ISO 639 JAC to accept a special-use code, “zzz” for a particular usage scenario. I wanted to get an initial reaction from people here.

We’ve had a situation arise in which we’ve found it would be useful to have a special-use language ID that could mean ‘any language’.  In BCP 47 terms, this is essentially the “*” language range that can be used in matching, but there are contexts in which “*” cannot be used. Having an alpha-3 language ID with the same meaning could be a useful alternative for these situations.

For example, it’s common practice in software development for application resources to be organized in a file system using folder names that indicate the language (i.e. are bcp 47 tags). But “*” cannot be used in most file systems. Here’s a hypothetical usage example: my app has a logo (perhaps with no linguistic content) that’s used for users of most languages, but for Japanese speakers I’m required for business reasons to show another variant of the logo that is specific to Japanese.

This would contrast with other existing special-use IDs in ISO 639:

-          zxx means ‘no linguistic content’; the ID we’d propose would be used in contexts in which language is relevant, but you have a resource that’s applicable to most language. (Perhaps a specific resource qualified with this would have no linguistic content, but it would be a variant for a class of resources that has some other variants that are language specific. See the example above.)

-          mul means ‘multiple languages’; this may seem like the same meaning, but it is actually distinct from the intent of mul, which is intended to mean that a single resource/document/record has content in many languages.

-          und: this means that a document has linguistic content but the identity of the language has not been determined; that’s totally different from this

-          mis: this means that a document is in _particular_ language that doesn’t have its own identifier; that’s totally different from this.

This would never be intended for a user to indicate a language preference; it would only be used to qualify a document / resource.



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