Re: [Ltru] Macrolanguage, Extlang. The Sami language situatation as example

"Don Osborn" <> Tue, 27 May 2008 18:55 UTC

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From: "Don Osborn" <>
To: "'Leif Halvard Silli'" <>, "'Peter Constable'" <>
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Date: Tue, 27 May 2008 14:55:54 -0400
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Cc: 'A12n tech support' <>, 'LTRU Working Group' <>
Subject: Re: [Ltru] Macrolanguage, Extlang. The Sami language situatation as example
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Leif, The situation of Sami as you describe it is similar to that observed
for a lot of languages, for instance many in Africa. Ultimately we're
talking about amendments to the existing ISO 639 standards, and for that
there needs to be more input from experts on the languages. That input can
come ad hoc as people observe it, or as workshops 

(I'll cc to A12n-collab for the info of people there concerning the
impending decisions regarding language tagging, which has to do with how the
terms in ISO 639 are used, not the content of the ISO 639 standard.)

Don Osborn

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On Behalf Of
> Leif Halvard Silli
> Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 2:25 PM
> To: Peter Constable
> Cc: LTRU Working Group
> Subject: [Ltru] Macrolanguage, Extlang. The Sami language situatation
> as example
> I am thankful for the Co-Chair who adviced against second
> guessing. I feel I've second guessed a lot. Never the less, I'll
> at least provide some thoughts as response, but under a new
> heading, as we were adviced.
> Let's look at Sami. Those languages are not grouped under a
> Macrolanguage. But could the Sami language(s) be worth an upgrade
> to "Macrolanguage" situation?
> Firstly, the encompassed languages of a Macrolangauge always share
> some lingustic "thing" that makes it possible to group them
> together - I suppose encompassed languages always share that much.
> The Macrolanguage "thing", then, is that there is one or several
> Areas of Life where these languages are considered as one.
> Hence, I wonder: We in Norway often speak about the Sami languages
> (plural) as just "the Sami language". So, for us, these languages
> are often considered as one thing. I therefore suppose that this
> qualifies for Macrolanguage status.
> However, the Sami languages are not mutually intelligible, at
> least not generally. In Norway, though, Northern Sami is pretty
> much the dominating encompassed language. And since Norway is also
>   the place in Scandinavia - and likely also in Russia - were the
> sami population are "best off", in many ways, it perhaps has some
> dominating role also outside Norway. (Sami reindeer groups often
> moved/move accross the borders, anyhow.)
> If, for simplicity, we say that samis all have a sami languag as
> primary languages, then as secondary language they might have
> Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Russian. The Samis in the Russian
> Federation will also eventually write their own languages in
> Cyrillic script.
> Now, the million dollar question: Macrolanguage? Would it have
> benefitted them? And secondly, would it have benefitted these
> groups to have Extlang? And what about technially solutions -
> would the RFC and syntax rules stand in the way?
> Answers:
> 1. Technical first: Currently, only Northern Sami has a twoletter
> subtag, 'se'. I think that for the Sami language to be "upgraded"
> to Macrolanguage, then the "se" tag would have had to be change
> meaning and become a Macrolanguage tag for all Sami languages. (I
> don't know if, historically, it has had such a broad meaning
> earlier?)
> Would it be technical possible to upgrade 'se' to Macrloanguag
> tag?  If not, are there other ways to get an upgrade? (The whole
> Macrolanguage and Extlang thing becomes very accidental if the
> fact that 'se' has been registered long ago can be used against
> it, in this case.)
> 2. Macrolanguage at all Would it have benefitted the Sami to have
> a Macrolanguag tag? Well, should it not be much simpler for users
> and implementers if we could "catch" any Sami with the "se" tag?
> The Sami have, and try to foster a cross border Sami identity.
> They have a Sami flag used in all the different regions where they
> are present.  We can simply look at Norway: The smalles Sami group
> is very small. I think a Macrolangauge tag that catched also that
> group, would be good - for users and implementors.
> 3. Extlang: Thanks to John, I now understand language negotiation
> a little bit better ... Extlang would mean that 'se' would be used
> much more, all over. It would mean fewer and more general tags,
> which coudl be made more spesific by adding the extlang tag.
> Would this be good? Yes, I think it would be good. I think it
> would be simpler and lead to more general but on the whole more
> correct tagging. (I think Addison made that point once.) I also
> think Sami people would like it. Then they could, via the use of
> the 'se' tag, browse Cyrillic Sami pagese in Russia via the 'se'
> tag for instanse.
> If you have an thoughts regarding when it would be bad, then
> please provide them.
> So, to answer your question, Peter: Yes, I see a value of
> Macrolanguage and Extlang also when languages are not mutually
> intelligble. And I knew this when I voted. Hence, the question of
> whether I would have voted the same way, does not apply.
> --
> leif halvard silli
> _______________________________________________
> Ltru mailing list

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