The issue came up in IETF-languages because speakers of the language coded "gsw" who are located in France refer to the language as "Alsatian", and there is no way for them to find "Alsatian" in IETFs registry. The immediate issue (they can't find "Alsatian") could be remedied in one of two ways:
1) by the ISO 639 JAC adding "Alsatian" as an alternate name (the IETF registry automatically includes any alternate name published in ISO 639), or
2) by using an established IETF process to add this as additional information to IETFs registry (as an additional Description field or as a Comment field in the gsw record).
This request is attempting the first before implementing the second, which is a reasonable thing for them to do.
For our purposes, it is not our responsibility to solve their immediate problem (how will users find "Alsatian" in their registry), nor do they need us to act to solve their immediate problem. So, I think that problem need not factor into our considerations. This is a valid request, though, and so we do need to consider it. But our decisions should be based on what makes sense for ISO 639, not for IETF's tag registry.
I think a key question is whether this is about language identity or about dialect: we should not make it a practice to add dialect names as alternates for our language entries. (What happens in a part of ISO 639 focused on sub-language variations is a completely different matter.) But if there's an issue that a language is known by a particular name within one of its speaker communities, then that's different.
For example, in the "Valencian" vs. "Catalan" debate, they did not come to us saying "Valencian is a dialect of Catalan and we'd like it coded separately" since that clearly would not fly. They also didn't come saying "Valencian is a dialect of Catalan, and we'd like that dialect name listed as an alternate name;" that also would not have been accepted. They did try to claim a language distinction, and we did't feel that case was established, but we did acknowledge a distinct identity, and on that basis "Valencian" was long ago listed as an alternate name.
Similarly in the "Kalmyk" / "Oirat" case, there was never any discussion of one or the other being a dialect identity. Rather, the two terms were presented to us as distinct appellations for a single language, and so both names were listed for the "xal" ID.
So, for our purposes, it seems to me the question is whether "Alsatian" is perceived as a name of a dialect, or as a name for the language. What may make things difficult is that it just might be both: clearly some consider "Alsatian" to be the name of a dialect, but perhaps there are some who consider it the name by which they refer to the language coded as "gsw". Given that the former is clearly the case while the latter is uncertain, I'd say the onus is on the requesters to make the case that "Alsatian" is used by some group of people as a language name rather than the name of a dialect within that language.
Just my thoughts.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> Behalf Of Håvard Hjulstad
> Sent: Monday, January 14, 2008 6:19 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: FW: ISO 639-2 Language Code Change Request - Alemannic, Swiss
> German, Alsatian
> To ISO 639 JAC members,
> As many of you will realize, this item has been discussed extensively
> on the IETF-Languages list. Personally I tend to agree with Rebecca
> when it comes to how we should respond to this request, but people who
> have followed the IETF discussion more closely than I have, may wish to
> present some of the arguments.
> The JAC may also wish to discuss how to draw relevant borders: We
> certainly don't want to register "Texan" as an additial name for
> English! The present case may be similar to Catalan/Valencian/Balear?
> Best regards,
> Håvard Hjulstad
> Standard Norge / Standards Norway
> [log in to unmask]
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rebecca S. Guenther [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2008 5:08 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]; Håvard Hjulstad
> Subject: ISO 639-2 Language Code Change Request (fwd)
> Here is a request for an additional language name. According to the
> Ethnologue entry for France, Alsatian is a dialect of Alemannic (Swiss
> German). So an entry for Alsatian would properly belong in the part of
> ISO-639 for dialects. Do you want to respond to the person? Or do you
> think we need to discuss this in the JAC?
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2008 17:04:03 -0500
> From: NDMSO <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask]
> Subject: ISO 639-2 Language Code Change Request
> ISO 639-2 Language Code Change Request.
> English name of Language: Swiss German
> French name of Language: alémanique
> iso_639_2_b: gsw
> iso_639_2_t: gsw
> change_requested: This request is to add \"Alsatian\" as a language
> name to this entity.
> This request is in synch with the Ethnologue page for gsw referenced by
> ISO 639-3. I am a member of the IETF language tags working group and
> the inclusion of this name will help users looking for a code for
> Alsatian in the IANA registry.
> Submitter's name: Karen Broome
> Submitter's email : [log in to unmask]
> Submitter's status : I am in charge of metadata standards at Sony
> Pictures and work with the LTRU group for the IETF. I also work with
> many audiovisual technical standards that require codes for dubbed and
> subtitled languages. I am the original registrant of the gsw tag.