FYI: ISO 639-5 reconfirmation ballot

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Jul 16 17:34:04 CEST 2016

Mark Davis ☕️ scripsit:

> I disagree. If it is withdrawn, and replaced by something else, it
> still orphans the codes in the language registry.

And what consequences does that have?  Like the deprecated tags, they
just sit there, and people can use them if they want to.

> And if it is replaced by something that doesn't use the same namespace
> (a statement like "why use alpha-3 codes which look identical to
> language codes?" is worrisome) it will cause no end of confusion in
> implementations.

Only if we incorporate the "something else" into BCP 47, which would
require a new RFC and IMO does not make sense to do anyway.

> > And it is nowhere near complete enough to be useful.
> It should be fleshed out, in that case. Clearly linguists may also
> need a more elaborate structure, with more information that would be
> of little interest to lay people. And for that it could be useful to
> have an *additional* part.

"Language" is a concept with a pretty strong basis in fact, though there
are edge cases and politicized questions.  "Language family" is a purely
theoretical construct and subject to constant change.  Right now, for
example, there is an ongoing debate about Sino-Tibetan: is it really
made up of a Sinitic branch and a Tibeto-Burman branch, or is Sinitic
nested within some branch of Tibeto-Burman?  (People who take this view
generally refer to the family as Trans-Himalayan.)  If the latter is
established, then the codes "sit" and "tbq" will be of dubious utility.

In short, a language-tagging standard that is all about stability
shouldn't incorporate language families at all.  The ones we have now,
we should keep in the name of that same stability.  Otherwise, forget it.

John Cowan        cowan at
I am expressing my opinion.  When my honorable and gallant friend is
called, he will express his opinion.  This is the process which we
call Debate.                   --Winston Churchill

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