Sorry, all, I wrote my message before I read this one.
We don't currently have a way to give more information about a language
name, as Peter suggested. We will need to make links to the 639-3 site for
On Wed, 6 Dec 2006, Peter Constable wrote:
> The main concern is to clarify that "gsw" is intended to denote a range of varieties deemed to be a single language (one that has the name, among others, "Swiss German") and not a broader range of varieties that would be deemed multiple languages (including Swabian and Walser as well as Swiss German).
> The user concern that has been expressed is that "Alemani[c]; Swiss German" suggests that "gsw" can be used to mean two different things:
> A) the collection of Alemannic languages (Swabian, Swiss German...), and also
> B) the individual language Swiss German (whichever name may be used to refer to it)
> Our intention is not that "gsw" can be used with a single meaning which is A, or that it can be used with two different meanings A and B. We intend it to mean just B. The only problem is that one of the English names used for B is the common English name for A.
> I think the particular thing that led to this user comment was that, in the machine-readable file for 639-3 that contains the code set, Joan had picked "Alemanic" as the reference name; he saw that, but apparently did not also look at file containing alternate names (at one point that user did comment that "listing Alemanic as the only name" is a problem).
> I think the problem can be resolved by the following:
> - Having Joan change the reference name to "Swiss German" (or "SchwyzerdŁtsch", for that matter). The reference name is never the complete story, but to the extent that it gives a first-pass impression "Swiss German" doesn't have the ambiguity that "Alemannic" does, and so I think it may be preferable.
> - Communicating that the reference name alone may not always be sufficient to convey to users the intended meaning of the identifier. (Joan could add that statement to the page on the 639-3 site where the data files can be downloaded.)
> - Ideally, we would also have info with the gsw entry
clarifying that the use of "Alemannic" is not intended to imply meaning A (above). On the 639-3 site, there are a couple of things that help: the entry indicates that it has a scope of individual language, not collection; and the more-information page for the entry has a link to the Ethnologue data describing the item in greater detail. At present, ISO 639-2 doesn't have any means of conveying additional information on individual entries, though.