-3 time's a charm!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/07/30 23:39 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/07/30/4141423.aspx

I am on the Linguist List.

Now mind you. I don't participate. I just watch the messages go by, and read the one I understand and set the others aside in case I might understand them some day.

Despite my delusionsnotions of lingustic aptitude, I feel kind of unworthy. No, scratch that, I feel very unworthy. :-)

But every once in while something gets posted that I figure it might be worth parroting, like this latest one from Joan Spanne of SIL:

The review period for the 2006 series of Change Requests ended June 30. Of the 120 requests considered, seven are still pending, because either they affect code elements included in both ISO 639-2 and 639-3 or additional information has come to light which requires further analysis. Of the decisions finalized:

11 code elements are retired as having been duplicates of another language (2), determined to be nonexistent (2), or merged into another code as being mutually intelligible varieties of the same language (7); 4 code elements have undergone a broadening in their denotation due to merges with other language varieties; 8 code elements have been split into two or more distinct languages, accounting for the creation of 24 new code elements (net gain of 16 individual languages); 49 entirely new language code elements have been created for languages not
previously accounted for in the standard. Of these, 11 are ancient languages; 47 code elements have undergone name changes and/or additions without any change in denotation.

A summary report of changes and outcomes may be viewed and downloaded as a PDF document. Please see
http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/default.asp for more information and a link to the summary report.

The 2007 series of change requests is now visible via the Change Request Index,
http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/chg_requests.asp, which permits sorting in various ways and has links to specific documentation for each change being proposed. Proposals for 2007 will be accepted up until September 1, 2007, and will be formally under review from September 15 - December 15. Outcomes will be announced for these proposals in January 2008. Proposals received after September 1 will be a part of the 2008 series of Change Requests, and will await formal review from September 15 - December 15, 2008.

Thank you,

Joan Spanne

ISO 639-3/RA
SIL International
7500 W Camp Wisdom Rd
Dallas, TX 75236

I know there are a few people who read here who find ISO 639-3 to be interesting, so I thought it might be worth quoting Joan on this one.... :-)

On a slightly more personal note, I have to say that SIL in general and Joan and particular have a lot to learn about managing ISO standards. Where is all of the unreasonable politics, over-entangled processes, difficult bickering, and endless reams of documents? And what's with all of the efficiency! Sheesh!

Just teasing Joan. Thanks for making this one of the most efficient and powerful active standards I know of!


This post brought to you by (U+3394, a.k.a. SQUARE THZ)

# Christoph Päper on 31 Jul 2007 7:55 AM:

ISO 639 exemplifies that it is often an arbitrary decision where to draw a border around a dialect continuum to extensionally define a language, which has often been done to coincide with geopolitical boundaries. An intensional definition is not any better, because all dialects differ from any codified standard grammar, phonology and lexicon to a random degree.

There is also a huge bias introduced by the literal language. Had the Romans used something like Chinese characters, the Romance languages would still be considered one and likewise there would be a plethora of Chinese languages if written with an alphabet. Without its current written form Swiss German might be considered a separate language from German, just as Luxembourgish is. We would still speak about a Serbocroatian language, if there was no alphabetic, religous and political divide. Instead of subdividing Norwegian into Bokmål and Nynorsk one could as well unify Norwegian, Danish and Swedish (and maybe Icelandic), despite spelling and glyph variants (æ=ä, ø=ö), if we consider (oral-aural) mutual intelligibility the most important factor.

It would be nice if there was a objective way to differentiate languages at a specific level which then could be used for standards like ISO 639, which became less ambiguous and less likely to change over short periods of time. Sadly there is none.

Actually a broader, more pragmatic view on languages (especially literal ones) could lessen the number of requested localisations (and thus reduce costs), while increasing the number of people getting a localisation, therefore increasing the probability of it being provided. The larger the speaker/writer or rather listener/reader base the stronger a language is, though it tends also to be more diverse, which causes standardisation to be noticed more.

# Mihai on 31 Jul 2007 12:19 PM:

"a broader, more pragmatic view on languages (especially literal ones) could lessen the number of requested localisations"

The number of languages translated has everything to do with "geopolitical boundaries" and "alphabetic, religous and political divide"

The standard only tries to reflects that.

Trying to sell in Norway a product translated into Swedish will not make your customers happy, even if the standard is "pragmatic" and considers the two languages the same.

So it is the world that is not pragmatic, not the standard :-)

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