Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Library of Congress

An email from GraceAnne DeCandido, librarian and really excellent person, contained this (note the last entry):

The following codes have been approved for use in the
international language code standard, ISO 639-2 (Codes for
the Representation of Names of Languages--Part 2: alpha-3
code) and are also being added to the MARC Code List for

New code Language name Previously coded

csh Kashubian sla (Slavic (Other))
fil Filipino
krc Karachay-Balkar tut (Altaic (Other))
mdf Moksha fiu (Finno-Ugrian (Other))
mwl Mirandese
myv Erzya fiu (Finno-Ugrian (Other))
nwc Newari, Old
scn Sicilian Italian ita (Italian)
srn Sranan cpe (Creoles and Pidgins, English-based (Other)
tlh Klingon (Artificial language)


Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

The Klingon made me laugh.

But I looked up some of the others, like Mirandese, which, it turns out is a romance language spoken by about 10,000 people in Portugal. And which is, of course, dying out.

I wonder how many languages are getting codes about twenty years before they die out?

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get to read this stuff. I love my job.

There's still no code for Sindarin or Quenya, though both have established Library of Congress Subject Headings, along with 84 other artificial languages, from Afrihili through Gab and Volapuk to Wede.


5:13 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Greer! How cool to see you here!

I love the thought that these dying languages are being preserved, but yes, the skiffy geek in me imagines a scholar five hundred years from now writing a paper on the origin of Klingon...

6:35 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

The fact that this or that activity has now been done in Klingon is the cute furry creature of contemporary culture -- whenever you are told of it, you are expected to smile and say, "Aww." Hamlet has been translated into Klingon? Aww. There is now a Klingon Language Institute? Aww.

Since one of the most ethically offensive things about =Star Trek= was its assumption that everything can be judged by our culture's values, a supposedly alien language that in its structure and syntax resembles modern European languages more closely than most non-European languages do is a pretty clear sign that its creators don't wish to conceive of anything in their fictive universe that our cultural mindset doesn't allow us to readily comprehend.

To shift franchises, do you remember the Ewok song that is played over the credits at the end of =The Return of the Jedi=? It's just a dumb little song, but despite the nonsense lyrics (its syllables comprising western European phonemes and intonation), the song sounds a lot less alien than, say, a Balinese one.

This may sound priggish, but I find this refusal to dramatize =anything= as truly strange (even if something is supposed to be unfathomable and scary, it is presented in familiar terms) a piece of moral and ethical complacency, to put it nicely. (Less nicely, its racist ethnocentrism, used to justify imperialism.) The original =Star Trek= was all about how funny foreigners (aliens) are, how silly their inability to run their own societies, which the Federation (essentially all white male humans) must step in and fix for them. =Star Trek: The Next Generation= was a bit less overtly imperialist: in perfect Eighties manner, it was all about validating one's feelings. The inferior societal values of the aliens (Klingons especially) were to be treated with compassion, rather than a punch in the face from James T. Kirk. That really doesn't make it much better.

So, yes: Klingons? Aww. But I can't join in the general fuzzies.

6:58 AM  

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