RE: Attracting wider participation [was: RE: Off-list RFC 3934 warning ([Ltru] Re: Language Tag Special Cases)]

"Don Osborn" <> Tue, 24 April 2007 13:22 UTC

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From: "Don Osborn" <>
To: "'Misha Wolf'" <>, "'LTRU Working Group'" <>
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Subject: RE: Attracting wider participation [was: RE: Off-list RFC 3934 warning ([Ltru] Re: Language Tag Special Cases)]
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 09:22:33 -0400
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I understand David's point to be that there might be better outreach to
increase the level of involvement of experts with a range of language
expertise (and authority). 

To take the case of sub-Saharan African languages, I find that I am
practically the only person actively trying to focus on what the
implications of a lot of the discussions are for them, and what their needs
might imply for the form of language tagging. Not the only person to think
about it, and basically I know enough to know how little I really know, but
one of the very few to consistently raise African language issues. Africa
deserves better.

The simple answer to invite colleagues is sometimes too simple: some African
language/linguistics experts (wherever they are from or based) are clueless
about language tags. One (an American professor) recently asked on behalf of
colleagues who are setting up a workshop, "We don't know what is ISO-639?"
Outreach is more than just getting people on the wagon to take them to the
polling station (or whatever metaphor one may prefer). How can potentially
interested experts be educated about the language tagging issues from the
bottom up, in a succinct way, to facilitate their participation and input?
They know the languages and the issues, and could add important dimensions
to the discussions and decisions that we are missing.

Problem is that outreach requires some effort and resources, and here, like
the case with Unicode, there is no such. So, the system remains largely
North American and West European.

The problem with regard to Africa is a larger one. ISO published last year a
short document on increasing African government capacities and involvement
in ISO standards processes.* This is all ISO standards, not just language or
ICT related. But as a general rule, African involvement in language and ICT
standards is very low, especially taking into account LTRU, IETF-languages

I'm not sure what the answer is (again, the problem of lack of resources and
time usually cut such discussions short), but it is an issue that shouldn't
be lightly dismissed. And it does seem to be most appropriately addressed to
the kind of people who are already on .

Don Osborn

* International Organization for Standardization. 2006. "ISO and Africa."
June 2006.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Misha Wolf []
> Sent: Monday, April 23, 2007 8:29 AM
> To: LTRU Working Group
> Subject: OT: Attracting wider participation [was: RE: Off-list RFC 3934
> warning ([Ltru] Re: Language Tag Special Cases)]
> Hi David,
> I'm divided as to the wisdom of replying.  If this has
> reached you, then the urge to do so overcame the urge
> not to do so.
> It seems self-evident that if you want people who are
> not currently on this list to join it in order to
> participate, you should be addressing yourself to them,
> rather than to the existing members of the list.  You
> could suggest the creation of a list,
> whose membership would consist of those persons who are
> *not* members of the existing list.  You could then use
> the new forum to encourage them to join the ltru list.
> Yours transatlantically,
> Misha
> London, UK
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Dalby []
> Sent: 23 April 2007 11:52
> To: 'Marion Gunn'; 'LTRU Working Group'
> Subject: RE: Off-list RFC 3934 warning ([Ltru] Re: Language Tag Special
> Cases)
> Dear All,
> I have refrained recently from responding to matters discussed on this
> and
> its parallel forum, because I have felt so out-of-place among largely
> trans-Atlantic experts in the rules of program(m)ing.
> Marion's humorous response is entirely appropriate and "on-topic", and
> I
> look forward to the day when the coding of the world's languages may be
> discussed and resolved by many more linguists and by many more speakers
> of
> different languages from around the world.
> Please forgive my intruding onto the bridge. I shall return to the
> boiler-room.
> Best wishes to all,
> David
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