request for subtag for Elfdalian

Doug Ewell doug at
Fri Feb 19 01:09:30 CET 2016

Mark Davis wrote:

>> simply because we've never done so before
> I agree that that alone is not an issue. However, the reasons for
> rejection need to be clearly understood.

I couldn't agree more. I'm a strong and vocal believer in the role of
history in decision processes like this one. This is usually
characterized as a caution not to use "we've always done it that way" as
an excuse, but in my experience the opposite is more common:
over-willingness to reverse or undo a decision without fully
understanding why that decision was made in the first place.

In BCP 47 we expressed clear reasons for our reluctance to register
(non-ISO) language subtags, as you paraphrased here:

> The registration of language subtags should be a last recourse,
> reserved for cases where the proposed subtag is not a "normal"
> language in the sense used in ISO, or where ISO is very clearly wrong
> in not encoding it.

And Mats is arguing that this is exactly what happened with Elfdalian.

Whether we agree or disagree with his arguments, the decision ought to
be based on whether our particular, extraordinary criteria have been
met, not whether we would be venturing into uncharted territory. The -u-
extension was uncharted territory in 2010, and we lived.

>> or because current implementations might be unable to handle it
> We don't live in an ivory tower. Whether implementations would break
> should always be a factor to consider.

Agreed, but it should be one factor among many, not a showstopper.

If we rejected new stuff out of hand because existing implementations
would break, we would never have had 3-letter language subtags,
productive script and variant subtags, and certainly not the -t- and -u-
extensions. We weigh the gain against the pain. And just like in 2001
when the first Unicode SMP character assignments were made, it's not
really a surprise -- in both cases the mechanism was published years
before the first implementation.

Doug Ewell | | Thornton, CO 🇺🇸

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