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Re: Comments for WD-css3-selectors-20010126

From: Biep Durieux <bdurieux@baan.com>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 06:11:12 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <41F966E6F6E5D311AFE000508B6FC21E04B24B05@ex-nld-u2.baan.com>
To: "'www-style@w3.org'" <www-style@w3.org>
Masayasu Ishikawa <mimasa@w3.org> wrote:
>The main difference between RFC 1766 and RFC 3066 is that
>the latter allows three-letter language codes defined in ISO 639-2,
>in addition to two-letter language codes defined in ISO 639.

Of course the real authority on natural language codes is SIL
(http://www.sil.org), not ISO.  They are the only organisation that has a
good overview on what languages have been discovered so far, and are the
main searchers for languages.  Their Ethnologue lists all the ~7000
languages found so far, with their three-letter codes as used in scientific

Some languages have many names, and some names can refer to many languages,
which is why the codes are necessary in research, and why the Ethnologue is
necessary to define exactly what a language code refers to.

The very fact that ISO language codes started out as two-letter codes
already shows that the ISO standardisation committee didn't have a good
grasp of either language equality or the number of languages "out there".
Having all the Amerindian languages (from various families) share a common
code, whereas many languages from the single Indoeuropaean family have
separate codes seems either the result of ethnocentrism, or - more likely -
a  panicky reaction after it was found out that two letters couldn't begin
to enumerate the languages spoken in the world.

J. A. Durieux
Received on Friday, 16 February 2001 07:05:04 UTC

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