Re: Language tags (Re: Statistics on reusing request)

Glenn Adams <> wrote in message

>     From:
>     Date: Thu, 02 Nov 1995 11:33:53 +0100
>     If you wish to register I-SIL-nnn as a standard for three-letter
>     Ethnologue-based tags, or even want to push for updating RFC 1766 to
>     include S-nnn as a new category, I would not argue against that, but
>     I would like to stick to the principle of using ISO standards for
>     the basic namespace.
> Since IANA does not otherwise use such a principle I don't know why you
> would adopt it here, let alone insist on it.

One thing that I don't understand is why you insist on 3-letter
tags nnn instead of 7-letter tags I-S-nnn for Ethnologue-based
language labels. How can 4 bytes per tag make such a difference?
_No_ changes of RFC 1766 at all are needed to register tags of
the form I-S-nnn.

>     Otherwise, we will end up with a really confusing situation once the
>     ISO 3166 three-letter project finishes (if it ever does); its tags are
>     SURE to conflict with the SIL tag.
> Even more incongruent does your "principle" appear given the laggardness
> of this particular ISO work item.

You will not have to wait for ISO to get its act together, if
I-S-nnn tags are registered. _If_ a 3-letter extension of
ISO 639 is eventually adopted, the 3-letter langauge tag space
should still be available, should IETF find these codes useful.

> It is extremely unlikely that ISO or
> anyone else for that matter will do as comprehensive a job as SIL has done
> in creating their language database.

A possible future 3-letter ISO standard will probably have other
desirable properties:
+  Wide acceptance in the bibliographic and lingusitic
   communities that pioneered standardized language tagging.
+  Extensive experience of a very similar language tagging
   system (*).
+  Interoperability with the internationalization work in
   ISO/JTC1/SC22 (Posix etc.).
+  Low frequency of errors and ambiguity thanks to careful
   scrutiny by lingusitic experts.
+  An open and international standardization process, minimizing
   the risk for accusations of political bias and other
   neonationalistic fuzz (**).
+  The automatic authority possessed by ISO-stamped standards in
   culturally and nationally sensitive fields.

(*) The proposed 3-letter extension of ISO 639 was essentially
the Library of Congress language tagging system, with additions
of alternative codes for some languages, thought to be more
considerate and acceptable to the users of those languages.

(**) I'm talking about _real_ politics here, not the toy
"politics" of the fights between different networking standards.

But the important thing is that we don't have to choose between
these two systems, or try to predict the outcome and time frames
of the ISO work: If a new ISO standard does come into existance,
it can be added to the already registered tags, including
I-S-nnn tags defined according to the Ethnologue project.


Olle Jarnefors, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm <>

Received on Friday, 3 November 1995 12:06:10 UTC