Macrolanguages (was: Re: BCP 47)

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Mar 9 06:43:36 CET 2013

Addison Phillips (I think) scripsit:

> However, I would say that it isn't a good idea to run out and petition
> the RA to make more macrolanguages. BCP47 has extensive discussion
> in Section 4.1 about when and how to use macrolanguages: unless your
> application can derive additional meaning or compatibility by using
> one with an extended language subtag, it says they are best avoided.

This conflates being encompassed by a macrolanguage with having an extlang
subtag.  We on this mailing list don't get to choose which languages are
encompassed by what macrolanguage, and we don't get to choose whether a
document's language tag should contain an individual language subtag or
a macrolanguage subtag as its primary language subtag.  What this group
*does* get to choose, however, is which codes for encompassed languages
become extlang subtags.  That's an important matter about which we have
to choose carefully every time a macrolanguage is proclaimed by the RA.

John Cowan  cowan at
"The exception proves the rule."  Dimbulbs think: "Your counterexample proves
my theory."  Latin students think "'Probat' means 'tests': the exception puts
the rule to the proof."  But legal historians know it means "Evidence for an
exception is evidence of the existence of a rule in cases not excepted from."

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