proposed ISO standard for language variations

John Cowan cowan at
Sun May 8 23:53:54 CEST 2016

Peter Constable scripsit:

> New Work Item Proposal for TC37/SC2: Identification and description
> of language varieties

This is very preliminary, of course, but the list of dimensions along which
languages can and do vary is already of interest to us:

1) in space (dialects, regionalects)

2) in time (Old, Middle, Modern, and their subdivisions)

3) by social group (gender, class, technical jargon)

4) by modality (spoken, written, signed, hummed, whistled, drummed)

5) by situation (formal, informal, neutral, motherese, foreigner-talk)

6) by individual usage (too fine-grained for us)

7) by proficiency (native, advanced, intermediate, beginning)

8) by functional disability (very complex substructure)

Even if this work item never progresses to an international standard,
we can use it to help analyze incoming requests and get an idea of
what kinds of differentia people might reasonably ask for.  The details
in parens above are not yet standardized.

If this standard either comes to fruition or stops being worked on, we
might use a one-letter tag followed by name-value pairs like those of the
u-tag, leading to something like en-v-time-middle-space-eastangl-mode-informal.

John Cowan        cowan at
Principles.  You can't say A is made of B or vice versa.
All mass is interaction.  --Richard Feynman

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