One of the projects I have been involved with published a paper this week in JIPA. It is a first for me; being published. Being the thoughtful person I am, I was considering how this paper will be categorized by librarians. For the most part papers themselves are not catalogued. Rather journals are catalogued. In a sense this is reasonable considering all the additional meta-data librarians would have to create in their meta-data tracking systems. However, in today’s world of computer catalogues it is really a shame that a user can’t go to a library catalogue and say what resources are related to German [deu]? As a language and linguistics researcher I would like to quickly reference all the titles in a library or collection which reference a particular language. The use of the ISO 639-3 standard can and does help with this. OLAC also tires to help with this resource location problem by aggregating the tagged contents of participating libraries. But in our case the paper makes reference to over 15 languages via ISO 639-3 codes. So our paper should have at least those 15 codes in its meta-data entry. Furthermore, there is no way for independent researchers to list their resource in the OLAC aggregation of resources. That is, I can not go to the OLAC website and add my citation and connect it to a particular language code.
There is one more twist which I noticed today too. One of the ISO codes is already out of date. This could be conceived of as a publication error. But even if the ISO had made its change after our paper was published then this issue would still be persistent.
During the course of the research and publication process of our paper, change request 2009-78 was accepted by the ISO 639-3 Registrar. This is actually a good thing. (I really am pro ISO 639-3.)
Basically, Buhi’non Bikol is now considered a distinct language and has been assigned the code [ubl]. It was formerly considered to be a variety of Albay Bicolano [bhk]. As a result of this change [bhk] has now been retired.
Here is where we use the old code, on page 208 we say:
voiced velar fricative [ɣ]
- Aklanon [AKL] (Scheerer 1920, Ryder 1940, de la Cruz & Zorc 1968, Payne 1978, Zorc 1995) (Zorc 1995: 344 considers the sound a velar approximant)
- Buhi’non [BHK] (McFarland 1974)
In reality McFarland did not reference the ISO code in 1974. (ISO 639-3 didn’t exist yet!) So the persistent information is that it was the language Buhi’non. I am not so concerned with errata or getting the publication to be corrected. What I want is for people to be able to find this resource when they are looking for it. (And that includes searches which are looking for a resource based on the languages which that resource references.)
The bottom line is that the ISO does change. And when it does change we can start referencing our new publications and data to the current codes. But there are going to be thousands of libraries out there with out-dated language codes referencing older publications. A librarian’s perspective might say that they need to add both the old and the new codes to the card catalogues. This is probably the best way to go about this. But who will notice that the catalogues need to be updated with the new codes? What this change makes me think is that there needs to be an Open Source vehicle where linguists and language researchers can give their knowledge about a language resources a community. Then librarians can pull that meta-data from that community. The community needs to be able to vet the meta-data so that the librarians feel like it is credible meta-data. In this way the quality and relevance of Meta-data can always be improved upon.