request for subtag for Elfdalian

Doug Ewell doug at
Tue Mar 8 01:15:55 CET 2016

Peter Constable wrote:

> The 639 RAs did not grant a distinct language ID for Valencian for
> precisely the reason you cite.

I know. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that.

> As for the 639-3 RA's evaluation of Elfdalian, your assessment of the
> RA's concern and that "people [should] be able to identify and locate
> content in Elfdalian" and that "any social or political implications
> [are] someone else's problem" makes it sound like you know of there
> being a large quantity of literature, as referred to in relation to
> Jutish. Is that the case?

I'm certainly not personally aware of any large quantity of literature
in Elfdalian. I've been under the impression, all along, that 639-3 was
about identifying as many true languages as possible, regardless of
degree of formal development and standardization. I thought it went
without saying that the purpose of 639-3 was to assign codes to
languages so that whatever content exists could be identified and

Obviously, you're well aware that many languages in SIL (and thus 639-3)
have undergone very little formal development or standardization. Some
that were included on the basis of being mentioned in books or articles
have turned out to be non-existent. Fourteen language codes were retired
as "nonexistent" from 639-3 again this year. Elfdalian would seem to be
in no danger of that, at least.

> Several attempts to get governmental recognition have not been
> successful; a concern that reasonably _should_ be in the minds of the
> RA (I have no idea if it was a consideration) is whether this request
> is an indirect strategy to assert status on the language. Looking at
> those criteria alone, one might say that the situation is not unlike
> that of the Valencian request.

I hadn't put much thought into that. You have a good point that speakers
and supporters of Elfdalian might be trying to game the system by
getting a code assigned, just as it could be argued the Swedish
government is trying to game the system by preventing the code from
being assigned -- in either case, attempting to use 639-3 code
assignment or non-assignment for some economic or political purpose
other than to identify a language.

In this case, we run the risk of arguing from fallacy on both sides. So
it might seem reasonable to go primarily with linguistic evidence. At
least the opponents should have to do better than "X is spoken in
country Y where many more people speak Z, which is the official language
of Y, and all the speakers of X also speak Z, and that makes X a dialect
of Z." How many 639-3 languages worldwide would disappear if that
criterion were applied uniformly?

> I'm not at all saying I think the current decision is the correct one.
> I'm just surprised at how readily you seem to discount the RA's
> decision over something that, from what I've seen (granted I have not
> looked into linguistic evidence), is not an obviously-wrong decision.

I hope my arguments don't appear as simplistic as that.

Doug Ewell | | Thornton, CO 🇺🇸

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