New variant subtags for Serbian language

Doug Ewell doug at
Sun Nov 17 23:59:24 CET 2013

John Cowan wrote:

>> Breaking out the dialects in this way would be a question for ISO
>> 639-3/RA, not this group. But it would basically involve scrapping
>> all their existing code elements for Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian,
>> etc. and replacing them with these genetic classifications, so I
>> wouldn't expect the RA to make that move any time soon.
> Actually, it wouldn't.  The existing Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian
> standard languages, which are the main denotations of the language
> tags, fit into a single component of the above system.  Currently
> Ethnologue just labels any variety spoken by Croats a dialect of
> Croatian, etc.

Miloš had written that he wanted to see ISO 639-3 code elements:

>> ** Chakavian (should get ISO 639-3 code, has ISO 639-6 code)
>> ** Kaykavian (should get ISO 639-3 code, has ISO 639-6 code)
>> ** Torlakian (should get ISO 639-3 code, has ISO 639-6 code)
>> ** Shtokavian (should get ISO 639-3 code, has ISO 639-6 code)

Back to John:

> So there are three possibilities:
> 1) Accept that idea and label Chakavian (e.g.) as hr-chakavsk, and 
> never
> mind that it is far more remote from standard hr than hr is from sr.
> 2) Get the RA to recognize the other components of the continuum as
> separate languages.  One argument for this is that many of them were
> standard languages in the past.

One question I'd like to see answered, before either we or the RA get 
too involved in breaking out the Serbo-Croatian language(s) even 
further, is how much of this is intended to provide needed detail for 
tagging content and enabling better searches, and how much is intended 
for scholarly analysis and comparison of dialects. If the main 
objectives are to show that multiple dialects exist, or that dialect A 
is historically related to dialect B, I'm not convinced that's in scope 
for either BCP 47 or 639-3.

This whole process got started with a request for Ekavian and Ijekavian 
variants, which clearly can denote Taggable Differences. Beyond that, 
it's much fuzzier.

> 3) Create variant tags for them attached to the "sh" macrolanguage,
> thus clarifying the denotation of "sh" as including the whole 
> continuum.

I've become increasingly wary of requests for additional macrolanguages 
after seeing many of the proposals on the 639-3 site, and comments on 
this list in the past. Many requesters, present company excluded, simply 
do not understand what a macrolanguage is.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, USA | @DougEwell ­ 

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list