Appeal to ISO 639 RA in support of Elfdalian

Peter Constable petercon at
Sun Apr 24 22:22:25 CEST 2016

A further suggestion…

Suggest to the RA that they change the scope of “swe” to Macrolanguage, and have that macrolanguage entry encompass new entries for Elfdalian and Swedish proper.

Now, before some of you groan…

The concept of macrolanguage was introduced as a compromise for cases in which something needs to be considered a single language in some contexts even though the linguistic evidence indicates that there are multiple languages involved. This was necessary because 639-2 was already treating as individual languages several things that were clearly multiple languages, yet it didn’t seem to make sense to consider them all language collections — something that 639-2 allowed for yet in these cases did not use.

This appears to be a case in which something needs to be considered a single language in some contexts, yet (evidently) the linguistic evidence indicates that multiple languages are involved. If a Swedish government ministry wants “swe” to be treated like a single language that encompasses E and other language varieties spoken in Sweden, then having “swe” be a macrolanguage would satisfy that. And if others have a need for E (or certain other language varieties) to be encoded as a distinct, individual language, then having “swe” be a macrolanguage would allow for that.

Of course, in practice, there would be some existing implementations that would treat “swe” as meaning Swedish proper. In this regard, the situation would be similar to what happens today for “cmn” (some implementations treating this as meaning ‘Mandarin’).

Just an idea for how to get what Mats, Michael and others want while providing an option for the RA that might also satisfy the Swedish agencies in question.


From: Ietf-languages [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Peter Constable
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 10:10 AM
To: Doug Ewell <doug at>; Mark Davis ☕️ <mark at>; Michael Everson <everson at>
Cc: ietflang IETF Languages Discussion <ietf-languages at>
Subject: RE: Appeal to ISO 639 RA in support of Elfdalian

The comments about tone aren’t as much about delicacy as about politeness.

Consider the RA’s comments that Mark wrote:

"The request to create the code [ovd] Övdalian is rejected at this point. However, the Registration Authority is sympathetic to the request and notes that the outcome of a future request might be different following further clarification of decision-making principles in the standard that are anticipated to come out of the current work item to produce a revision of the text of the standard."

Are you saying that the RA is wrong about being sympathetic to the request? Of course not. What those who are proponents are saying is that, whatever changes to decision-making principles may be considered, the correct decision in the case of Elfdalian is that it be considered a separate language. And so, you would like the decision to be reconsidered and made on the weight of the linguistic evidence, and that because of the current user needs you would like that decision to be taken soon rather than waiting until 2017.

I suggest Michael and whoever else step into the shoes of the recipient and consider what kind of wording you would find most convincing. And, no, I’m not going to provide text for that because, even though I’m sympathetic to the request, I’m not among those in need of urgent action by the RA.

Additionally, I suggest that you submit the input via the RA’s standard process so that it is publicly visible, and also send email drawing their attention to the submission and requesting expedited action.


From: Ietf-languages [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Doug Ewell
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 9:42 AM
To: Mark Davis ☕️ <mark at<mailto:mark at>>; Michael Everson <everson at<mailto:everson at>>
Cc: ietflang IETF Languages Discussion <ietf-languages at<mailto:ietf-languages at>>
Subject: Re: Appeal to ISO 639 RA in support of Elfdalian

Dear ISO 639-3/RA, the undersigned believe that Elfdalian is a language and not a dialect, and as such should be issued an ISO 639-3 code element, for the following reasons...

Is this what we are trying to say? It doesn’t mention that the RA previously denied the request, and therefore avoids telling the RA that they made an incorrect decision. Do we need to be even more delicate than this, and not even ask them to issue a code element, but only suggest abstractly that they might possibly wish to consider additional evidence?

It is sometimes difficult to ask someone in writing to overturn their decision without basically telling them their decision was in error. In speech, tone of voice and pauses and eyebrows make this sort of advanced finesse more practical.

I don’t have any problem with saying “the undersigned” or equivalent instead of claiming the entire group, some of whom may disagree.

Doug Ewell | | Thornton, CO 🇺🇸
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