Serbo-Croatian continuum: the top level

Gordon P. Hemsley me at
Mon Mar 3 01:53:53 CET 2014

On 03/02/2014 04:13 PM, Doug Ewell wrote:
> 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".

Mistaken or not, we are still having to deal with the reality of the 
existence of these Olden Days implementations, which makes it difficult 
to use script subtags, let alone new primary language subtags greater 
than length 3.

Not having invested too much time in following the actual linguistic 
discussion, I personally favor proposal (1b), which uses variant subtags 
on macrolanguage 'sh'. It seems to me that, given that the varieties are 
on a continuum, which by its nature make it difficult to categorize the 
varieties into distinct boxes, it makes the most sense to fix points on 
the continuum that do not necessarily correspond one-to-one with the 
"dialects with an army".

Furthermore, I think the the BCP 47-originated primary language tags 
should be used as a last resort, and we clearly have other resorts in 
this case.

Gordon P. Hemsley
me at

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list