Use of Flags as Language Identifier on the Web (was: About cultural/languages communities flags)

Shervin Afshar shervinafshar at
Fri Feb 13 16:46:05 CST 2015

I see. It all make sense to me now. For some reason, I was of the
impression that we are talking about flags and language codes here.

↪ Shervin

On Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 2:33 PM, Philippe Verdy <verdy_p at> wrote:

> 2015-02-13 20:37 GMT+01:00 Shervin Afshar <shervinafshar at>:
>> Some of what you mentioned are relevant to the general topic in a very
>> broad sense, but not relevant to the focus of the conversation we're having
>> here; e.g. saving space in package design, replacing bullet separators,
>> etc. Although not relevant to the conversation, still as an i18n
>> practitioner, I'd like to see them in a document with some figures and some
>> references. See this[1] as an exquisite example.
>>> These uses are on fact very old, before standardisation of language
>>> codes and they have notre disappeared and will likely not in any expected
>>> short time frame.
>> Is there an example of a multilingual document pre-dating ISO/TC 37 and
>> ISO/R 639 which uses flags to distinguish text in different languages?
> My sentence was more generic than that. It was about the old practice of
> using things identifies countries/regions where the real meaning was to
> represent languages (independantly of regions where it is supposed to be
> "mostly" spoken (false for languages that are much more spoken in other
> places than their native region.
> So various things associated to places (rather than languages) have been
> used and continue to be used:
> * more or less abbreviated coutnry/region names (often altered locally or
> using imaginative/poetic descriptions at best, or frequently as well using
> insulting slang words for these  regions names)
> * the standard name of these regions (even if the language is no longer
> spoken there: it has the side effect that those that speak the language
> today are considered as "strangers" within their current country.
> * the new name of the region once it has become an region occupied by
> another ruler (the old name used when that region was still self-governing
> is prohibited.
> * iconic representations of various objects typical of this region (e.g.
> using an icon of the Eiffel Tower to designate Paris, or France, or an
> iconic representation of the Colyseum to erpresent Rome Italy, or the Tower
> of Pise as well, or a Pyramid to represent Egypt) as a way to designate the
> language that is mostly spoken there or originates from there; wellknown
> monuments in this region are the most used
> * But you'll see also (notably in sports) a frog or a peacok to represent
> France, an other natural elements symbolizing historical events in nations
> of UK. Frequently these elements may be also part of today's flags (e.g.
> the mapple leaf for Canada, the hermine for Britanny)
> * Flags **of course** for these regions (but there are disagreements about
> the choice of Flag, as well as to the graographical border of the region
> where that language is spoken or originates)
> * Coats of arms
> * National colors in some arrangements (far from the effective form of the
> flag even if it includes these colors).
> * Iconic representation of the region borders (often only the borders
> remaining in today's countries)
> * Religious and esotheric symbols
> * Other non inconic symbols of these regions (flags are not the only
> official symbols of today's countries) : it could be some notes of an
> anthem, or a a famous song or music from a musician of that region (which
> European country do you think the three apples may mean in Romance
> countries ? you have to think about it phonetically, and then to which
> European language will you associate these three apples ?)
> * Photos of portraits, or scultpures of famous persons from that region,
> notably the most famous artists (e.g. look into per-language categories of
> the "Languages" category on several editions of Wiktionnary),frequentlty
> these are poets, writers, dramaturges.
> * Common sentences attributing object to the country or region (a standard
> used in East Asian regions, and replacing country names without using any
> phonologic similarity). Those sentences are also depicted iconically on
> their flags (e.g. Japan).
> ...
> In all those cases, there's a common confusion between designating regions
> and languages (and politically it seems that most countries want to define
> their concept of nation and associated territory to a language and want
> that language to be named according to the way theur also name the region.
> So most frequenty, the "gentilés" derived friom the region name to
> designate people of that region are used as adjectives qualifying every
> subject used by people of this region or from hat region (and these include
> theur language)
> Human history, since many centuries, has a huge record of dramatic events
> caused by this confusion of cultures/languages/peoples with regions by
> their current winning rulers as well as by their occupants and occupied
> countruesx. This is stil lthe case today and new events are coming almost
> every day to recall it. This contaminates the basic concept of "nation" and
> even th way we write and pronounce languages.
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