request for subtag for Elfdalian

John Cowan cowan at
Fri Jan 22 21:12:50 CET 2016

Kent Karlsson scripsit:

> I had assumed that the 639-3 RA was independent of any country's
> government... But maybe I'm being naïve.

Other way around.  I don't think SIL/ISO is being unduly influenced by the
US or any other government.  But governments may (either for internal
reasons, or for reasons of external pressure from other countries)
be unduly influenced by SIL/ISO.

> I'm not an expert on Swedish dialects, but I gather that (various)
> dalmål (Dalecarlian) aren't sufficiently different from (official and
> other dialects of) Swedish that it should be considered a different
> language. Only älvdalska qualifies. 

That's because the other varieties have had standard or regional Swedish
superimposed on them.  In the same way, originally English and Frisian
were more similar to each other than any other languages (excluding
Scots), because they are the most closely related.  However, since they
separated, Frisian has been mostly overshadowed by Dutch, and English
has been massively colonized by French and Latin, with the result that
Frisian is far more like Dutch than either is like English nowadays.
Similarly, French and Italian are more closely related than Italian and
Spanish, but Italian and Spanish are more *similar*, because French has
changed much more than either of the others.

> As a different language, it should not be given a variant subtag,
> but a primary language subtag (five-letter one, if the RA does not
> assign a three-letter one).

We can do that, but historically we haven't.  My sense is that that's a
can of worms no one wants to open without utterly clear and convincing
evidence that the RA isn't doing its job (which includes balancing
political, linguistic, and taxonomic concerns).

> I'm not sure what "great divide (in two)" you are talking about. "old"
> vs. "modern"?

I mean in the sense that Elfdalian split off from Old Norse either before,
or just after, Old Norse split into Old East Norse and Old West Norse.
That it's also conservative is neither here nor there.  Sardinian was the
first language to split off from Latin before the other Romance languages
separated from each other, and it is very conservative in its vowel system
(which is why Dante said that Sards "imitate Latin as monkeys imitate
men"), but very much changed in its consonant system and in other ways.

John Cowan        cowan at
Well, I have news for our current leaders and the leaders of tomorrow:
the Bill of Rights is not a frivolous luxury, in force only during
times of peace and prosperity.  We don't just push it to the side
when the going gets tough.  --Molly Ivins

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list