Re: (iso639.184) Plane 14 redux (was: Same language, two locales)

From: Christopher J. Fynn (
Date: Tue Sep 12 2000 - 11:00:34 EDT

In principle I think making the set of ISO 639 language tags more
comprehensive is a good idea.

However there are a couple of concerns I have:

I think a clear distinction may need to be made between those languages which
are commonly written and those which are (largely) only spoken. Outside the
realm of specialised applications for linguists, most applications currently
only deal with written languages and scripts and it is only confusing (and
storing up problems) to add codes for spoken languages and dialects to that
list of tags.

It is quite easy to envision that a set of standard codes may also be needed
for spoken languages and dialects in for things like voice recognition
applications and specialised linguistic tagging. My own feeling is that there
should be a separate set of codes for *spoken* languages and major dialects.
Obviously may languages would fall in both lists.

Looking over the Ethnolouge codes for "Bodhic" languages it seems quite clear
that most of the codes listed are for distinctive spoken languages and
dialects - literate speakers of most of these languages have one
written/literary language "Tibetan" which they share in common - though if
they tried to speak to each other they might have a great deal of difficulty
understanding each other.

Putting it simply we need one code "bo" for the written language but many
distinct codes for the spoken languages and dialects which are often *very*
different from the common spoken language.

In short I favour inclusion of codes for written languages in the Ethnolouge
list which are currently missing in ISO 639 (and the requirement for a certain
number of publications does not seem too onerous) - but do not favour the
adoption of all the languages in the Ethnolouge list wholesale
at this time as many of these appear to be only spoken languages or distinct

I do think it would be useful to consider a separate set of codes for spoken

- chris

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