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Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:24:37 +0200
Subject: Re: Locale bikeshed time

On Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 12:01:50PM -0400, Rich Felker wrote:
> > Btw do we have to also use lll (the three-letter codes) or would be
> > the two-letter ones sufficient?
> I believe there are some languages for which there is no two-letter
> code. (Note that even the whole 26x26 space is probably insufficient
> to represent all of the world's languages, and for practical purposes,
> the letters should have some correspondence with the name of the
> language.)

Ok, then it's a pity that we can not "postulate" three-letter ones :)
(as we want to embrace the values people already have in their LANG...)

> > An example of a spectacular failure to do so were the xkb keyboard maps.
> > [
> >   Two incompatible representations were in use, for many years (!) One was
> >   reasonable, structured by country i.e. reflecting different countries'
> >   actual standards. The other one was broken by design, using "language"
> >   as the main key without any actual definition of its semantics. This
> >   led to many of the available definitions being a hardly useful hacks
> >   (and of course to a lot of confusion for everyone as this thing was
> >   impossible to document). Remarkably even the maintainers of the maps
> >   at at the time did not realize the origin of the
> >   problem. I happen to have been involved into clarifying the issue,
> >   now the structure of xkb/symbols is reasonable.
> > ]
> This text is utterly backwards, and I've complained about the policy
> before, but gotten nowhere with it. Yes many languages have keyboard


> variants connected to a particular geographic territory (this is
> mainly true for European languages, not so much for the rest of the
> world), but it does not make keyboard layout a property of country.

A keyboard layout is nothing else than "a cultural or personal
preference". In the overwhelming majority of usage cases it is
reflected/strongly-suggested by the manufacturers of the keyboards by
carving some glyphs on the keys. The manufacturers tend to follow the
different countries' most formalized cultural references, expressed
by the locally defined standards (among others, the country-specific
standards for keyboard layouts). This also creates a strong bios towards
a certain one of these layouts for the corresponding users, of course.

I do not say that "country" is a perfect reference. It is nevertheless
much more reasonable/usable than "language" which has nothing to do with
layouts (_alphabets_ might have a say in corner cases, but not languages).

> You also have:
> - Users who speak and use languages that have no relation to the
>   country where they're living.
> - Languages which have no territory.
> - Languages used in territories where the country it belongs to is
>   disputed.
> - Etc.

Sure. But this is not what a keyboard layout reflects.
You mention a complexity which does not belong to the task.

> All of these issues make country-based keyboard selection at best
> inconvenient, and at worst culturally and politically offensive, to
> users. And offending users is utterly bad policy.

Believe it or not, I saw this argument from the freedesktop people
during the corresponding discussion (about 15+ years ago iirc).
Nevertheless reflecting what is carved on the keyboard which has been
bought or otherwise chosen _by_the_user_ is hardly an insult.

If there is no national standard for the "user's home culture"
layout, then there is none. Not our fault and a purely political
issue (technically you always can find a place for an extra layout

If a user chooses a layout defined by a standard of a "country of BAD" -
that was the user choice, not ours. Somebody can possibly feel that
a BAD country "stole" "their" layout but we are not in a position to
judge there.

The matter of fact is that the keyboards being manufactured are governed
in the _very_ first hand by national standards, which among others define
both the physical placement of the keys and the placement of the labels
on the keys.

Blind typers may forget about the second fact but this does not make
the fact irrelevant.

> The same issue exists in glibc -- for a long time, their policy
> mandated that all locales have a territory associated with them, and
> this (along with other stupid policy) was preventing the addition of
> the Esperanto locale. See:

_This_ was indeed stupid, I am aware of this issue too as I needed
the locale.

> The reasonable approach to this is probably just using the
> three-letter codes for languages that do not have a two-letter code.
> In practice I haven't seen such translations/locales on other systems,
> but we certainly don't want to preclude them.

Fair enough!

Thanks Rich.


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