Re: [Ietf-languages] [EXTERNAL] Re: language identifiers for sign languages (incl. sgn) vs. attribute for indicating the representation of an individual language in "sign language modality"

John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org> Sat, 30 November 2019 03:59 UTC

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From: John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2019 22:58:23 -0500
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To: Sebastian Drude <drude@xs4all.nl>
Cc: Christian Galinski <christian.galinski@chello.at>, "Fourney, David" <david.fourney@usask.ca>, jzag@loc.gov, Debra Russell <drussell@ualberta.ca>, ietf-languages <ietf-languages@iana.org>, Gary Simons <gary_simons@sil.org>, "105-5-03 Hein, Anja" <105-5-03@auswaertiges-amt.de>
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Subject: Re: [Ietf-languages] [EXTERNAL] Re: language identifiers for sign languages (incl. sgn) vs. attribute for indicating the representation of an individual language in "sign language modality"
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On Fri, Nov 29, 2019 at 7:56 AM Sebastian Drude <drude@xs4all.nl>; wrote:

To begin with, a single flat hierarchy mixing dialects and modalities etc.
> without cross-classifications is doomed, given the multidimensionality of
> linguistic variation (cf. ISO 21636).
>

Even without considering multidimensional variation, a simple family tree
is also not something that should be baked into an IS, because it varies
with time: languages are routinely reclassified not only individually but
en masse, and there is not always a consensus view.  Is Dene-Yeniseian
consensus now or not? (Lyle Campbell doesn't like it, but he doesn't like
any grouping that wasn't proposed at least a century ago.)  What about
Altaic?  ("Infinite are the arguments of mages.")  The current
classification of Bantu is basically geographic, and it's not even clear if
all those regions actually belong in a single family.  Etc.

Then, an attempt to exhaustively list all varieties of all languages in the
> world by basically a single person or very small group must fail; this
> clearly needs a community effort where many experts contribute.
>

You'd still need them to agree on common standards:  see above.


> Work on what is now ISO 21636 was originally intended to replace the
> failed ISO 639-6, but is now a related but separate endeavor, preparing the
> ground for a future registration mechanism for language varieties.
>

This present mailing list, or de facto WG, is a present registration
mechanism for language varieties, with a view to identification rather than
classification.  Identification views can and, I argue, should be flat.
Biologists have enough trouble wrangling their binomial names and dealing
with the changes that come with genus-level classifications: if they
routinely named our species "Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Haplorhini
Simiiformes Hominidae Homininae Hominini Homo sapiens" the name would not
only be hopelessly verbose but would change all the time: Hominidae was
redefined to include the other great apes in a transition starting before
2000 and complieting about 2015.

-- 

> Sent from my phone, excuses for being short
>

Surely you jest.  "Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai
pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte."