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--- On Wed, 3/13/13, Mathieu Roy <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I've just read this article against
> using flags of countries to stand for languages: http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/flags.html. I agree with it. 

Myeh. I guess some people will complain about anything. Flags are used to
identify (major) languages on websites for no other reasons than that they
are a) colorful images (and thus stand out from ordinary text) and b) they
are easily made into compact clickable icons. I can see the point, but
don't have an issue with using a flag to indicate language, and, though 
American, have no issue at all with clicking on a UK flag. Or even and 
English flag -- and YES, many web sites I've visited shunt their English 
language link through an actual cross-of-St.-George English flag. Heck, 
I'd just as happily click on an Australian or a Canadian flag.

The system breaks down, of course, when you move away from major languages
that are associated with major countries. The UK flag is clearly indicative
of the English language -- even though are also Welsh, Gaelic, Scots, and
Geordie languages native there. The US flag would also clearly indicate
English; but what if you've got a link to a page in Gullah? Gullah is
only spoken in the US, and thus by rights ought to get an American flag
for its link. Yet the US flag does nt really scream "Gullah link" to me!

In so far as mst multi-language web pages and even instruction manuals
and other printed matter (catalogs (print and on-line), tourism sites, 
etc.) usually only have links to a small number of major languages 
like English, Spanish, Japanese, French and Chinese. National flags work 
just fine and, at least in my opinion are hardly inappropriate to the 
task. I think most people recognise these major flags and the principle 
languages they represent and I also think that most people understand that
no overt (or any other vert) nationalism is present in the choice of flag. 
The message gets across and that is what is important.

There are, of course, other solutions. A very frequent one I find is a 
country abbreviation (UK / US; FR; D; SP; CN; etc). Really not much better 
than flags in so far as multiple languages per country goes. (This one
does actually make sense, especially if there is country specific legalese
within the link.) Still another solution is simply to write the name of 
the language in that language: "ENGLISH"; "DEUTSCH"; "ITALIANO" etc. or
an abbreviation thereof: ENG, D, ITAL, etc. This one's a little harder to
visualise because the name looks just like another word of text. The flag
icon really does come in handy for quick identification!

> However, I'd like to have your opinion on creating a flag for a conlang 
> (as well as creating other kinds of symbols).

As others have said, this is really a concultural issue more than a
conlinguistic one. Much will depend on the culture and history of the
people in question. Unless the country in question is a philoligarchy
and therefor ruled by linguists chances are good a language in and of 
itself won't get a flag. There are other possibilities, of course. Perhaps
one empire is composed of two or more linguistic groups, and in order to
foster a kind of regional pride, these linguistic groups are flagged
rather than some geographical or ethnic entity.

As for my concultures: most countries in the World do not have flags as 
we'd recognised them. Most countries have some kind of standard or 
standards associated with them (the standard of old Hoopelle had a lamp 
upon a long pole with a broad ribbon attached; Auntimoany has a round 
shield showing the bum of an oliphant, all placed atop crossed mammoth-like tusks). The closest thing they have to flags are the 
embroidered tapestry-like banners that a number of entities (cities,
guilds, schools, etc) have as symbols. They aren't flown from poles, but 
rather are suspended on walls or above gateways or inside guildhalls or
other public places.

These sort of standards are probably modernised versions of ancient totems
and ultimately serve the same purpose as flags -- identification at a
distance.

In the Eastlands, various kinds of colored pennants have historically been 
used by seamen for intership communications. Anymore, the old pennant 
codes have been replaced by semaphores. On land, the old optical systems 
have largely been made obsolete by the farspeaker system.

A ship's home port and any fleet affiliation are signalled by the designs
painted upon their sides. An individual ship is identified by the
figurehead -- each one is as distinct as a name or a coat of arms and
indeed there are books published for the well informed captain containing
images of all known figureheads and the trading houses or fleets the ships
belong to.

Padraic

> -Mathieu