Dear Rebecca

There are several problems with your suggestions for Bokmaal and Nynorsk.

In message <[log in to unmask]>
you wrote via [log in to unmask]:

> To ISO 639/JAC:
> We had a meeting here at the Library of Congress of catalogers who are
> applying the language codes, and the difficulty of applying the three
> Norwegian codes was made clear.  It was felt that at least in the U.S.
> and probably most places outside of Norway those applying the codes may
> not have the expertise to be able to determine and it may not be
> desirable for searching and retrieval purposes to make such fine
> distinctions. There is also the problem that there exists two forms of the
> language, one based on Danish and one on Old Norse (this taken from
> Havard's ISO/DIS 639-l Annex C), while there are now 3 codes. As Havard
> stated at our meeting, this is a national rather than international need,
> although all of these codes are needed in Norway.

This could indicate one of two possibilities: (a) that ISO 639-2
needs to be changed, or (b) that LC cataloguers need to have
available more information to distinguish these languages, such as
was suggested by Keld Simonsen. Thus far, only (a) seems to have been
considered as a possibility.

There are also needs outside of Norway, e.g. in some other
Scandinavian countries, as well as others - see also below.

> This is a case that is bound to come up time and time again in this
> standard, when local needs conflict with international needs.

There are also parts of the the USA (e.g. Minnesota) where there are
significant populations with a Norwegian heritage, where these
distinctions about different languages will be important.

> Those of us maintaining large bibliographic databases and producing
> large numbers of records may not be able to or want to make the fine
> distinctions that might be made in the countries where the language
> is spoken.

Cataloguing agencies who are producing large numbers of records
usually - it is to be hoped - recruit cataloguers who can pick up
nuances about specific languages, even if they are not regular
speakers of those languages. In practice, there are also
statistically likely guesses that they can make based on place of
publication, or the occurence of certain key words (cf. Keld
Simonsen's list of examples) which can confirm that it is a specific
language or another one that should be coded.

> Therefore I would like to propose the following solution.  The new codes
> that were approved (nno and nob) would be appended onto the more general
> code for Norwegian.  Thus, a hierarchical type of coding would be used:
>         nor-nno  Norwegian Nynorsk
>         nor-nob  Norwegian Bokmaal

For specific languages a hierarchical distinction for languages would
be a new departure: this was not suggested in Washington, for
example, for Bosnian or Croatian.

Such a major change of principle would need major agreement across
the JAC, and confirmation by ISO/TC37/SC2 and ISO/TC46/SC4 in my

Additional codes using dashes have not been hierarchical in that
sense, but linking two different concepts, e.g. language and country.
In the case of sign languages, "sgn-nob", "sgn-nno" - and in theory I
suppose "sgn-nor" - would all be distinct possibilities. I have not
checked the JAC sign langauge document to check which possibilities
exist now.

The codes nor-nno for "Norwegian Nynorsk" and nor-nob for "Norwegian
Bokmaal" would be at odds with these possibilities, and also
extremely confusing.

In any case, this option will not be available in the MARC 008 field,
where a fixed field is applied: only "nor", "nob" or "nno" are

It will be necessary for the cataloguing agency to develop
guidelines. One simple one could be "the Library of Congress has used
"nor" for Bokmaal and Nynorsk in the past: at present it will continue
to do so, and not use the distinctive "nob" and "nno" codes."

If you did so, you would of course have to consider whether you
wanted to convert any  "nob" and "nno" codes" to "nor" for internal

> For the alpha-2 list we would do the same, although I would argue that
> only the alpha-3 code would be needed as an extension:
>         no-nno  Norwegian Nynorsk
>         no-nob  Norwegian Bokmaal
> An alternative could be using the alpha-2 code as the second part:
>         no-nn
>         no-nb

The fact that either of these possibilities look possible, leading to
further ambivalent coding, is another argument against using
hyphen-linked codes for Bokmaal and Nynorsk.

> We could consider applying this mechanism in the future where needed for
> these types of situations, but we would NOT go back and look at the codes
> we have as to whether others are similar.

Only with a major change of principle agreed by the ISO 639 JAC, with
confirmation by ISO/TC37/SC2 and ISO/TC46/SC4.

> This solution would be consistent with the ISO 3166 subentity codes, where
> the code for a subentity is attached to a country code to be more
> specific.

Bokmaal and Nynorsk are not "subentities" they are specific

In any case neither ISO 639 or ISO 639-2 go into great detail about
how ISO 3166 codes are applied: they merely give a few examples.

> It would also be consistent with the direction in the current
> proposed revision to RFC1766, where it is stated that a subtag may be used
> in conjunction with a language code (example is: no-nynorsk, no-bokmaal).
> The only difference is that a code would be used for the subtag, rather
> than a language name.

That example is because the current version of RFC 1766 is based only
on the 1998 edition of ISO 639.

The proposed revision which Michael Everson mentioned at the meeting
would result in the use of specific codes - not hyphen-lined codes -
for Bokmaal and Nynorsk.

> I would like to open up discussion on this proposal during the next
> several days. Please consider it and comment between now and next Tuesday,
> 7 March. Then I will send out a voting form and we will vote on it.

If you plan to do that, there need to be new ISO 639 JAC procedures
put in place to cover the validity of earlier votes, and how long a
vote may last before it is overturned. Currently we do not have such

> Although we have previously voted on these codes, I don't see this
> possible change as a complete reversal of that decision, but a
> reformulating of how the codes are presented.

I can't agree on that last point. It still uses the new codes, but
proposes how codes should be used, which is outside the scope of
ISO 639.

Nor does this proposal get over use in fixed 3-letter fields.

It is an implementation issue, not an issue for which codes are
listed in the standard.

Best regards

John Clews

John Clews, SESAME Computer Projects, 8 Avenue Rd, Harrogate, HG2 7PG
tel: +44 1423 888 432; fax: + 44 1423 889061;
Email: [log in to unmask]

Committee Chair of  ISO/TC46/SC2: Conversion of Written Languages;
Committee Member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC22/WG20: Internationalization;
Committee Member of CEN/TC304: Information and Communications
 Technologies: European Localization Requirements
Committee Member of TS/1: Terminology (UK national member body of
 ISO/TC37: Terminology)
Committee Member of the Foundation for Endangered Languages;
Committee Member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC2: Coded Character Sets