Serbo-Croatian continuum: the top level

Doug Ewell doug at
Sun Mar 2 22:13:51 CET 2014

John Cowan <cowan at mercury dot ccil dot org> wrote:

> (1c) We can use our extraordinary powers under Section 2.2.1
> subsection 5 of RFC 5646 and create our own primary language tags.
> The RFC says "an attempt to register any new proposed primary language
> MUST be made to the ISO 639 registration authority".  Technically,
> this would only authorize the creation of a tag for Kajkavian, but I
> think we can take it as read that the RA would reject the others on
> the same grounds.
> The disadvantages are that BCP 47 primary language tags would no
> longer automatically be ISO 639 code elements, and that the new
> language tags, though substantively encompassed by 'sh', would not
> formally be so (though there seems to be no explicit prohibition on
> adding Macrolanguage: fields to such entries).  Despite these points,
> I currently favor this solution.

There are many pros and cons to John's suggestions, and here I address 
only a few procedural items.

I don't see any problem with the idea that "BCP 47 primary language tags 
would no longer automatically be ISO 639 code elements." The possibility 
of "registered" primary language subtags (a term used in RFC 5646 to 
mean initiated and registered through this group, not via ISO 639) has 
existed since RFC 4646. Implementers of BCP 47 who assume all language 
subtags must be ISO 639 code elements are just as mistaken as 
implementers of RFC 1766 and 3066 in the Olden Days who assumed all tags 
would look like "xx" or "xx-XX".

I'm not so sure we can take the RA's rejection of a single request as 
authority for us to register five new language subtags. I would at least 
like to get some sort of statement from the RA that they would also 
reject Chakavian, neo-Shtokavian, etc. on the same basis as they 
rejected Kajkavian. We have the sort of relationship with them that 
might allow such a statement.

We definitely cannot add Macrolanguage fields to "registered" primary 
language subtags. Section 3.1.10 is clear that this field is tied 
directly to ISO 639-3 assignments.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, USA | @DougEwell ­ 

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