Macrolanguages (was: Re: BCP 47)

Mark Davis ☕ mark at
Fri Mar 8 18:07:20 CET 2013

> implies that we can somehow override the RA's decision.

Well, some implementations (I suspect all significant ones) *need* to
override the RA's decision. For example, CLDR and people that use it
normalize the predominant encompassed form to the macrolanguage, for
compatibility. Implementations are just not going to change from using 'zh'
or 'ar' to mean the predominant form.

For a full list, see, looking just at
'macrolanguage' in the Reason.

That isolates implementations from any resulting instability. That means
that even if the RA decides to make 'de' a macrolanguage encompassing
Schwäbish, Schwiitzertütsch, etc., with a separate code for
'Schriftdeutsch' it wouldn't affect CLDR users.

Mark <>
*— Il meglio è l’inimico del bene —*

On Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 5:48 PM, Doug Ewell <doug at> wrote:

> Phillips, Addison <addison at lab126 dot com> wrote:
> >> Why doesn't Swabian have German as a macrolanguage?
> >
> > The short answer is: because ISO 639-3 says so (or, rather, fails to
> > say so).
> This is the answer that Benson needed.
> > But these generally do not convey additional utility for the uses to
> > which language tags are mostly applied and the additional complexity
> > of macrolanguages is something that generally this group tries to
> > avoid.
> This is NOT the answer that Benson needed.
> This group isn't empowered to avoid the additional complexity of
> macrolanguages. BCP 47 has a mechanism in place to deal with them. The
> mechanism was an uneasy compromise and it does add complexity to the
> tagging model, but when 639-3/RA decides to assign a macrolanguage,
> that's pretty much that; the mechanism kicks in.
> To say that the group tries to avoid the complexity of macrolanguages
> implies that we can somehow override the RA's decision. I don't think we
> want to perpetuate that belief among users.
> --
> Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, USA
> | @DougEwell ­
> _______________________________________________
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> Ietf-languages at
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