Dear ISO JAC:
Please see the following exchange about Cantonese as a result of a change
request. Is there indeed evidence that there is a growing distinction
between Cantonese and other Chinese languages in the written form as well
as spoken? There are also comments about the code chosen in ISO 639-3, but
I would be inclined to stick to what I said about how we choose particular
identifiers. Going by the normative text in the standard, we would have
chosen one based on the vernacular, since usage in national and
international databases pertains to how the codes WERE chosen in the
standard, rather than how they will be chosen in the future. But this is
an unusual sitation that wasn't foreseen when 639-2 was written (i.e. to
develop 639-3 based on Ethnologue codes for those not already defined).
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 19:13:51 +0800
From: [log in to unmask]
To: Rebecca S. Guenther <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: New ISO 639-2 code
Thank your for furthering the issues about Cantonese as a written language to
consideration. As for the choice of the code I would like to know if existing
codes shall always prevail. If a code is based whenever possible on
vernacular form in the native language or in English, then it is possible for
Cantonese to be assigned a code as such, that codes such as "can", "gdw" or
"ktw" is not currently taken by any language. I am also interested to know if
"yue" is already the established usage in national and international databases.
Having a code that ressembles the common native or English name would
facilitate the use of the code as a device to identify the language.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Rebecca S. Guenther" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 11:16 PM
Subject: Re: New ISO 639-2 code
> Dear Sca:
> Thank you for your message. I will consult further with the ISO 639 Joint
> Advisory Committee on the issues you raise about Cantonese as a written
> language. You also asked about the choice of code in ISO 639-3. We have
> a number of rules detailed in the 639 standard in section 4.1
> We say there that future development will be based whenever possible on
> the vernacular form. However, in this case in the development of ISO
> 639-3, there was an existing code list, the Ethnologue list, and the
> standard was based on this when codes already existed (established usage
> of codes in national and international databases was a criterion in the
> development of ISO 639-2). The code "yue" was used there. It is important
> to remember that these language codes are not intended to be abbreviations
> for the language, but, as this section of the standard states, as a device
> to identify a given language. There are many cases where we are unable to
> use anything close to an abbreviation of any form of the name, since the
> combinations of letters may already have been taken.
> ^^ Rebecca S. Guenther ^^
> ^^ Chair, ISO 639-2 Maintenance Agency ^^
> ^^ Senior Networking and Standards Specialist ^^
> ^^ Library of Congress ^^
> ^^ Washington, DC 20540-4402 ^^
> ^^ (202) 707-5092 (voice) (202) 707-0115 (FAX) ^^
> ^^ [log in to unmask] ^^
> ^^ ^^
> On Mon, 22 Aug 2005 [log in to unmask] wrote:
>> Dear Rebecca,
>> I understand the standard was developed for written languages, but the
>> fact that Cantonese does exist in written form has to be acknowledged.
>> They are research on Cantonese in its written form, for instance, Don
>> Snow's "Cantonese as a written language"
>> published by the Hong Kong University Press.
>> I am interested to know why the code for Cantonese is based on the
>> word "Yue", instead of "Cantonese". "Yue" is not the way the language
>> is known in English. It is not even the common native name, and,
>> rather, it's a transliteration based on the Mandarin pronunciation of
>> an alternative native name which is far less common. The common native
>> name of the language as pronounced in Cantonese is Kwong Tung Waa,
>> literally meaning speech of Canton (now known as Guangdong,
>> transliterated based on Mandarin pronunciation). As far as I am
>> concerned the code should be derived from the common English name or
>> the common native name of the language. And that was the reason why I
>> suggested to use "can" as the code.
>> Thank you for your attention.