Registration request for new subtags for Portuguese orthographies

Doug Ewell doug at
Sat Mar 21 19:53:47 CET 2015

This is my summary of the arguments presented so far against registering 
the Portuguese subtags, and why I feel the arguments do not (or should 
not) preclude the registrations.

1. No authoritative wordlist is provided.

This might be instructive, but should not be mandatory as a condition of 
registration. BCP 47 doesn't require one, and one has not been required 
for past registrations.

We are not in the business of defining language variants themselves, but 
of providing a way to tag reasonably well-defined variants, where 
"reasonably well-defined" is not absolute and does not mean that 
everyone likes it or agrees with it.

2. Wikipedia references are not sufficient.

Additional references were provided, including one from the Portuguese 
Education Ministry, which helps to demonstrate that the reform "exists," 
irrespective of whether anyone approves of it or not.

3. The reform is controversial and has not been widely adopted.

The German reform of 1996 was controversial, and several publishers and 
jurisdictions refused to implement it, but we registered subtags 
(originally, RFC 3066 tags) to allow content to be tagged. We did not 
try to weigh in on whether the reform was popular or "good."

The Belarusian variants ("academic" and Taraškievica) certainly ignited 
a good deal of controversy and disagreement on this list, but both 
variants were registered.

There are other examples from BCP 47 history.

4. Not all Portuguese-speaking countries have adopted it; the old law is 
still in effect in many regions.

This is interesting from a legislative standpoint, but not from an 
identification standpoint. Whether the law has been formally 
"implemented" has nothing to do with whether the orthographic changes 
exist or whether some writers are using it.

5. The reforms are unstable.

It seems to be true that the exact details of which changes will and 
will not be adopted by which countries are unsettled. This is hardly 
unusual for language. I'm sure the exact details of which Boontling 
words were used by which residents, and during what time frame, were 
never precisely specified. A variant subtag doesn't attempt to specify 
such things.

6. Some content is a mixture of old and new orthographies; the reform is 
not consistently applied.

As Mark said, this was famously true of the German reform; some 
publishers and jurisdictions adopted some elements of the reform and not 
others. This does not diminish the benefit of having subtags to identify 
one orthography or the other. Not all language usage is internally 
consistent, despite the best efforts of copy editors.

7. "There are legal suits pending in BR against ao90 more specifically 
against the Academy."

This has no bearing on whether the orthographic changes exist, and any 
such suits pose no threat to a group creating identifiers for the old 
and new systems.

8. IETF standardizes (or should) things that are correct and true, not 
those that are incorrect or false.

What IETF has standardized, in BCP 47, is a mechanism to tag linguistic 
content and a mechanism to register subtags.

Neither IETF nor this group takes any stand on whether the Portuguese 
reforms are "good."

9. "monstrosities... These are 'hyper-incorrect' forms resulting from 

This statement confirms that the changes do exist and are not imaginary 
or hypothetical. Spellings that someone may consider incorrect or 
subliterate would seem to be most in need of tagging. And usage does 
change; at one point the English terms "ice cream" and "donut" were 
considered non-standard or subliterate.

"[Brazil] is full of illeterate translators who work cheaply."
"In [Brazil], where a staggering 80+ % of the population is either 
illiterate or functionnally illiterate..."
"[T]here was never such a useless and botched spelling reform as this 
one in the civilized world. The 1990 reform should be a case-study of 
human stupidity and scientific incompetence. It is not conceivable that 
such a thing could happen anywhere else in the 21st century."

There is, frankly, nothing to be gained in this debate by invoking 
hyperbole or by insulting the Brazilian people. There is the 
possibility, even for a distinguished professor, of losing a measure of 
credibility by making such statements, particularly by citing statistics 
that seem preposterous (UNICEF claims 90.4% literacy for adults in 
Brazil; what definition of "functionally illiterate" explains this 

11. [unstated but evident] Registration of these subtags would validate 
the reform or give it some sort of official imprimatur.

It would do no such thing. BCP 47 is not in that business.

As João wrote, "That [the reform] exists and is used is a reality." This 
is all that should matter to us. As an individual contributor, I support 
registration of these subtags.

Doug Ewell | | Thornton, CO 🇺🇸 

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