Re: Language Codes

From: Andrew Dunbar (
Date: Mon Oct 21 2002 - 22:51:23 EDT

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     --- David Chart <> wrote:
    > >
    > > > As to la-IT, when Latin was a living language,
    > > > there was no country called Italy - there were
    > > > Latium, Etruria, Umbria, etc., and later the
    > > > Roman Empire.
    > >
    > > Exactly. Much better though I still don't think
    > > it's right would be "la-VA" for Vatican City. Of
    > > course this Latin isn't really the same latin as
    > > found in the classics either is it. It probably
    > > doesn't help for orthographic purposes which I
    > > feel is the most important reason for
    > > the "country" or "variety" field of the language
    > > code existing in the first place.
    > The problem with historical languages is that you
    > need to specify a time as well. For example, en-GB-
    > 1600 is rather different from en-GB-2002 (have a
    > look at Shakespeare). A dictionary based on a
    > renaissance mathematician is one historical slice of
    > Latin, and different from la-GB-1400, as well as
    > from la-IT-1100.

    Don't think that this is restricted purely to
    historical languages. This is a major issue with
    modern German which has had two recent reforms in
    orthography, the last being about 1998 from memory.
    Various institutions have accepted it and various
    others have rejected it. There is a pressing need to
    support both. MS Word supports them as a suboption in
    its German proofing tools. I believe having fully
    specified language tags is a much better solution.
    Many other languages have had recent spelling/ortho-
    graphy reforms too. Icelandic springs to mind for
    instance and Spanish changed its alphabetical order in
    the 1990s.

    > Until ISO get this sorted out, which I suppose might
    > happen, I suggest that we avoid using kludges to
    > handle dead languages and historical versions of
    > living languages.

    I disagree. ISO aren't going to care about these
    issues as much as a dedicated multilingual word
    processor. ISO's language codes are terribly
    incomplete compared to dedicated language groups such
    as SIL. We should design a system that will work well
    in the general case, try to support each new language
    as somebody asks for it, and work with current and
    upcoming ISO standards too.
    Again, it's not just dead languages!

    Andrew Dunbar.

    > (Although the ability to set my locale to en-GB-1600
    > would be rather cool -- 'Thou hast changed thy
    > document. Dost thou wish to retain thy changes on
    > disk?')


    > --
    > David Chart


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