There are ways to deal with Chinese variants.

zh is *very widely* used in a generic way -- any Chinese variety using Chinese characters -- which was one of the main motivators for the notion of macrolanguage. 693-3 has identifiers for specific Chinese languages, including Putonghua (cmn) and Cantonese (yue). Anyone using ISO 639-3 will be able to use the specific identifiers or the more general macrolanguage identifier according to the need. ISO 15924 has script identifiers for Simplified and Traditional characters, so these can be used in combination with language identifiers to capture those disctinctions.

In RFC 3066 (and it's successor -- now approved but still awaiting a number), these are all already accommodated:

zh = Chinese (any variety, any written form)
zh-Hant = Chinese in traditional characters (any language variety)
zh-Hans = Chinese in simplified characters (any language variety)
zh-cmn = Putonghua Chinese (any written form)
zh-cmn-Hant = Putonghua Chinese in traditional characters
zh-cmn-Hans = Putonghua Chinese in simplified characters
zh-yue = Cantonese Chinese (any written form)
zh-yue-Hant = Cantonese Chinese in traditional characters
zh-yue-Hans = Cantonese Chinese in simplified characters

These are some of the tags presently available for use. Something like zh-cmn-Hant-CA (Puthonghua in traditional characters, as used in Canada) isn't presently available, but it will be once we get 639-3 published and make a further revision to the RFC to support that.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
> Of Christian Galinski
> Sent: Monday, March 27, 2006 8:54 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: New ISO 639 proposal - N'Ko - Discussion
> If N'ko really is like Chinese - I would have a problem...
> If it is more like those many "Englishes" - I would agree to include it
> in 639-2.
> For me the "zh"-question is NOT yet satisfactorily solved. Putonghua and
> Cantonese are very different not only in pronunciation, but - to a
> lesser degree - in writing (quite a few other Chinese characters) as
> well as in lexic. Not to mention the script variants from Singapore, via
> HK and Taiwan to Beijing and further on to SF or Vancouver...
> Rgds
> Christian
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
> Of Michael Everson
> Sent: Montag, 27. März 2006 18:12
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: New ISO 639 proposal - N'Ko - Discussion
> At 20:46 -0800 2006-03-24, Peter Constable wrote:
> >I had considered macrolanguage by what seemed like an analogous
> >situation to Chinese: various distinct languages, but there is a
> >written form that (to some extent) can be used by all. But with the
> >further explanation Michael provides, it doesn't sound like that at
> >all.
> >
> >The ID "zh" is widely used for "Chinese" text; as such, it's
> >entirely appropriate to refer to content that is in Mandarin "zh"
> >versus Cantonese "zh" versus Hokkien "zh" etc. If N'Ko is a
> >macrolanguage, then it should make sense to refer to the Bambara
> >variety of N'Ko versus the Maninka variety of N'Ko etc. But if I
> >understand Michael's description correctly, that would *not* be
> >appropriate.
> >
> >Michael gives Interlingua as an analogy. That is not like "zh".
> >
> >Given what I've heard from Michael so far, I think that, if we code
> >it, it should be considered an individual language, not a
> >macrolanguage, and not a register or dialect of some other language.
> I agree.
> By the way. N'Ko Alphabet Day is 14 April. If the JAC could approve
> and publish the application for N'Ko (nqo as it happens) *on* 14
> April, it will make a lot of people happy. I know, you don't *have*
> to make the effort to do this, but it would be rather nice for the
> community.
> --
> Michael Everson *