RE: [OT] Re: the Ethnologue

Date: Wed Sep 20 2000 - 14:16:54 EDT

On 09/17/2000 07:22:05 PM "Carl W. Brown" wrote:

>You are right the Ethnologue is not appropriate as a standard.

If we're assuming a single standard, in the sense of a single "tiling of
the plane" of languages, we're not proposing that the Ethnologue be the
standard. We are suggesting, though, that the need for alternate "tilings"
be acknowledged, and that the Ethnologue would serve well as one "tiling".

>Where I see using the SIL is as an extension of the ISO standard.

Just so.

>As far as research goes, you have to
>do your own to be able to prepare the locale. This will eliminate 90% of
>the flaky SIL languages. There either will be no demand or the research
>will uncover which of several encodings to use.

(Flaky? Who wants to admit their language is flaky?)

Indeed, I don't expect anybody to suddenly provide full locale data for
thousands of locales. Indeed, implementers will discover what they need to
do based on user requests, and will have to solve the problem of gathering
the necessary data just as they have to do now.

I'm not aware of any group of users requesting a populated locale database
covering thousands of locales. I am aware of several groups of users asking
for thousands of language identifiers, however.

>On the other hand if you consider that language is part of cultural
>expression and that different languages express ideas specific to the
>culture then the SIL is incomplete. For example, Boont is an English
>language developed around Booneville California.

If sufficiently-documented data is provided to indicate that Boont counts
as a distinct language, according to the operational definitions assumed,
then I would expect the editorial staff would add this to the Ethnologue.
It's not so much a question of whether there is an interest in Bible
translation into the language, but rather of what the sociolinguistic facts
about the language are. (I have no other knowledge of "Boont", so have no
idea whether it would get counted or not. If it is "slang", my guess would
be that it probably doesn't constitute a complete langauge. At this point,
I'm getting in over my head in terms of understanding of sociolinguistics,
so I'll stop here before I get into more trouble than I might have already
gotten into.)

>Standards as extremely important and they should be solid. They must work
>for you but in this business you can not be slaves to them. The
>implementations should be based on standards but be flexible to
>exceptions when needed. If I use the SIL codes I stand a good chance that
>the codes may be the same codes that ISO may adopt and I can avoid a later

What is important here is that, where ISO doesn't provide a code, that
users do have some other source of codes for internal and, more
importantly, interchange purposes. Many independent agencies and
individuals are already using Ethnologue codes in this way precisely
because ISO provides very limited coverage.

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <>

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