If I recall well the discussion about the selection principles for ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2, we had the choice of a number of conflicting principles.
- There was the idea of 'freezing' the alpha-2 code
- There was another idea of filling alpha-2 code up to its fullest extent and then there would be no further development
- Another discussion centred around the differences between certain principles for alpha-2 and alpha-3 code.
The outcome was - as usual and necessary - a compromise.
The idea of 'freezing' the alpha-2 code came from the consideration that all language communities having an alpha-3 symbol, but no alpha-2 code might request also - for whatever reason - to obtain an alpha-2 symbol. This in fact would strongly move in the direction of filling up the alpha-2 code.
The intention of the alpha-2 experts (including myself) definitely was NOT to rule out totally and forever, that a language community whose language is well qualifying for an alpha-2 symbol and which already have an alpha-3 symbol, are totally deprived of the right to obtain an alpha-2 symbol. That is why I support the suggestion to allow for exceptions for pragmatic reasons, if the case is well founded. The existing code-sets are full of such exceptions - which we tried to curb for the future development of the code-sets (which is correct 'in principle'). It is only a matter of fact that we will have to take decision on further exception. The code-sets reflect reality - which corresponding to natural systems cannot be fully controlled by 'logic'. Therefore, every 'logic' and systemic principle will sooner or later face problems/limits etc.
The case of Hawaiian is sufficiently documented and - in my opinion - justifies an exception from the rules. In addition, I do not see a fundamental problem, as every symbol (be it the alpha-2, alpha-3/L or alpha-3/T sets) is unique. Parallel coding will in the future increase anyhow for several reasons:
- the letter symbols are or will be represented in certain environments by numeric values (sometimes replaced by barcode or similar graphical code)
- language symbols will also be created in other writing systems (hopefully referring to the ISO codes)
- alpha-4/5/n will become necessary (or some totally different system) due to the ever-increasing need for a higher degree of granularity in contents.
So with full cautiousness, and nevertheless avoiding inflexibility just because of 'principles' (whose usefulness I do not deny at all, as I have - hopefully made clear), I would appreciate it, if we could vote in favour of an alpha-2 symbol for Hawaiian.
Another issue is the emotional factor and silly use of the language symbols by certain users (e.g. software houses) which may arouse emotions (which may be well founded). Here we still have a long way to go to explain, that a language symbol is not a status symbol, like a Rolls Royce ... It is also not insulting or derogatory element - it is just an 'xy' representing a language name without any emotional value. (this may be difficult in certain cases, but often arguments here are VERY awkward, indeed)
Von: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]]Im Auftrag
von Håvard Hjulstad
Gesendet: Samstag, 11. Mai 2002 00:02
An: [log in to unmask]
Betreff: FW: Submission for alpha-2 identifier for Hawaiian
I am forwarding this feedback on Hawaiian to the JAC. Any comments before we
close this matter?
Håvard Hjulstad mailto:[log in to unmask]
NO-1430 Ås, Norway
tel: +47-64944233 & +47-64963684
From: Keola Donaghy [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 10. mai 2002 22:00
To: [log in to unmask]
Cc: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Submission for alpha-2 identifier for Hawaiian
[log in to unmask] writes:
>I am the acting chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee to ISO 639. Your
>submission for an alpha-2 identifier for Hawaiian has been forwarded to
>and I am sending it out for discussion and ballot according to the
>appropriate procedures. I am not in a position to say anything about the
>result at this time, but I shall get back to you as soon as the committee
>has made a decision.
>Your submission is very complete. We have one small question, and an
Aloha again Havard. My apologies for the delay in replying, my recovery
from surgery took longer than anticipated and I have just returned to work
>(1) The indigenous name is given as 'olelo Hawai'i. We want indigenous
>to be recorded as correctly as possibel, including all diacritics, etc.
>(Non-Latin-script languages also in their own script.) The question in
>whether there are any "funny things" with the indigenous name. The two '
>ordinary apostrophes? No diacritics?
There are diacritics, but because of my fear of them getting distorted
going through email. I've attached a small graphic that shows the name for
Hawaiian as we write it. Our own email and conferencing system handles the
diacritics properly, but we often find they get lost on mail sent out
through the Internet. I do have a page on our website that displays the
proper Unicode characters for all of our diacritics:
What I wrote as appostrophes in my submission are out glottal, represented
by a single, open, curly quote. The first "o" in 'olelo has a macron over
it. This orthography was standardized for Hawaiian and most other
Polynesian languages in the 1940s.
>(2) The last sentence of your submission is interesting: "We have hired
>programmers to assist us, and they have found it problematic to get
>for our language with the lack of the alpha 2 code." What kind of
>Is this because the alpha-3 identifiers aren't as well known as the
>identifiers? Or have you experienced different "status" for the alpha-3
>set? Are the problems on a practical level or on a more "philsophical"
>level? We are very much interested in feedback on this issue to be able to
>evaluate what kind of actions we need to do. From the point of view of the
>committee, both tables have equal status. Any further comments would be of
It seemed to me that the issue seemed to be a lack of knowledge of the
alpha-3 or a philosphical issue. In one instance, I had contacted the
developer of an Intranet software regarding support for our language, and
to allow us to translate the software into Hawaiian. The reply that came
back was "Hawaiian does not have an alpha-2 code, therefore it isn't
really a language." I cannot tell you how enfuriating that was. I don't
believe they intended to insult us, and perhaps intended it to be
humorous. I do not know if they were unaware of the alpha-3 codes or they
preferred to use the alpha-2.
We have solicited and gained support from Apple Computer, they will be
building in Hawaiian language support (keyboard, Unicode characters,
sorting routines and date formatting) into the next version of OS X. We
would like to next approach Microsoft to do the same. Even if the addition
of an alpha-2 does nothing more than make the language more visible and
elevate it's 'perceived' status in official circles, it would be a great
help to us in garnering support for our programs. We've fought to bring
our language back from the brink of extinction, and appreciate your
consideration and support.
Mahalo (thank you) for your consideration.
Hawaiian Language Curriculum and Technology Coordinator
Native Hawaiian Serving Institution Program
University of Hawai'i at Hilo
[log in to unmask] http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~nhsi