request for subtag for Elfdalian

Mats Blakstad mats.gbproject at
Thu Feb 18 16:39:11 CET 2016

RA have now published all comments from the review period and I encourage
everyone to read them, you can find them after the rejection statement in
the PDF file (scroll down):
Beyond the rejection statement from the RA there are 7 comments on the
application; 2 negative and 5 positive.

I want to make some comments on the rejection of a language code for

- The 2 negative comments are from Anna Westerberg and John Helgander, both
of them associated with the Swedish Institute for Language and Folklore
which is *"a Swedish government agency with a focus on dialects, language
policy, language planning [...]*". John Helgander writes that *"the issue
is a contested one and there is no general agreement among scholar*",
however there are no references given and as far as I know - and I've asked
and tried to find out more about it extensively - the only scholars that
still doubts that Övdalian/Elfdalian is a language is in fact *only* those
from the Swedish Institute for Language and Folklore.

- Westerberg claims that if Övdalian/Elfdalian was spoken in Norway it
would have been considered as a dialect. First of all this is simply not
true, I'm from Norway and I don't know about any dialects in Norway that
are as distinct from the Norwegian standards (Bokmål or Nynorsk) as
Övdalian/Elfdalian. Norway society is also considerably more tolerant than
Sweden when it comes to use of dialects in the public sphere, and even
though the dialects can differ a lot they are all mutually intelligible.
I'm sure that if Övdalian/Elfdalian was spoken in Norway it would have been
recognized as a minority language a long time ago. In Sweden, however,
there is an official policy of "language cultivation" (check website of
Swedish Institute for Language and Folklore).

- When we sent our application we were asked to give extensive
sources/references, whereas the 2 negative comments lack references/sources
for several claims. Westerberg simply end her letter by stating that she
represent a Swedish Govenmental agency. I'm not sure about the relevance of
this self-referential source as development of ISO 639 should not reflect
opinions of national governments.

- I wonder if RA misunderstand the application as a re-battle of the
language codes for Dalecarlian, Jamtska and Scanian which were removed
after protest from Swedish officials. However Övdalian/Elfdalian is really
another issue than those cases. And I really hope that the RA exercise
their mandate with institutional independence from national governments.

- The RA writes that the problem is when the issue is considered in
the *functional
perspective*. I don't understand this as Övdalian/Elfdalian in fact have
important functions in Älvdalen where it is spoken; There is a magazine,
books are created, there is a standardized written form, it is used
extensively in social media; check out their facebook page
<>, they have poems, songs and
Christmas concerts in Övdalian/Elfdalian, and maybe more important the
language is an important identity marker for the whole local community. All
political parties locally in Älvdalen support the recognition of
Övdalian/Elfdalian as a language. Of course the language do not keep
important functions for Sweden as a whole, but I don't understand why it is
relevant that the language don't have important functions for Westerberg,
Helgander and others who do not themselves speak it, what we should
consider is if the language have important functions for the native
speakers, and in the case of Övdalian/Elfdalian the answer is definitely

- I think the evidence demand of "at least 50 works written in the language
are held in libraries" is really unfair. Many many language codes for other
languages have been accepted without this demand, I don't understand why
there should be a special requirements like this for Övdalian/Elfdalian.

- One of the most problematic formulations in the rejection is that the RA
say Övdalian/Elfdalian "*fall under the “roof” of a more dominant
standardized language that already has a Part 2 code*". I'm tempted to ask
what kind of "roof" they're talking about. It is clearly not a linguistic
roof; They have themselves stated that if you look at the structure of the
language there are compelling evidences that it is another language than
Swedish. So then what type of roof is it? To me it seems clear that the
"roof" they talk about must be an ethnic or national roof. However ISO 639
are codes for languages, not ethnicity or nations. This have always been
one of the great problems for the people in Älvdalen while they have been
fighting to get their language recognized for more than 30 years: They
consider themselves ethnically as Swedish people, but they speaking another
language. This combination seem very complicated to grasp for Swedish

- You should check the statement from Ulum Dalska, the local language
association in Älvdalen, they've added the introduction of The Little
Prince in both Övdalian/Elfdalian, Swedish and English, for those of you
not speaking any Scandinavian language you might get the feel about exactly
how big the differences are by comparing the Övdalian/Elfdalian and Swedish
text. For those speaking any Scandinavian language the issue should be pure
clear; Övdalian/Elfdalian is a language and obviously not a Swedish
dialect. It is not even a borderline case.

I guess it will make most sense to register Övdalian/Elfdalian under
Section 3.6 as a primary language subtag, and then remove the subtag again
if RA accept a new ISO application in the future.

Best regards
Mats Blakstad

2016-02-06 19:00 GMT+01:00 Doug Ewell <doug at>:

> John Cowan wrote:
> The fact is that English uses the old Latin names of the provinces
>> and their subdivisions rather than the Swedish names.  It is not
>> a question of a new transcription into English, but the use of
>> traditional English names.
> In BCP 47 we use ISO 639-3 names, and although Elfdalian obviously doesn't
> have one (otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion), here is what
> Ethnologue says on its Swedish page (
> Location: [ ...] Elfdalian dialect: northern Dalarna, southeastern
> Älvdalen municipality.
> Dialects: [ ...] Elfdalian (Älvdalska, Övdalian, Övdalsk), [...] Elfdalian
> is considered the most archaic vernacular within Dalecarlian, preserving
> many feature of Old Norse.
> The parenthesized forms are local forms; this is a standard Ethnologue
> convention.
> And of course Ethnologue names are about as closely related to 639-3 names
> as you can get.
> I think it's clear that the preferred English name is Elfdalian,
> regardless of what it "should" be, or what it is in other languages. Of
> course, this is orthogonal to the question of what the BCP 47 *subtag
> value* should be.
> --
> Doug Ewell | | Thornton, CO 🇺🇸
> _______________________________________________
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