[Tagging] Mapping language borders, tagging offical languages?

Joseph Eisenberg joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com
Sat Sep 15 04:33:50 UTC 2018

I started a draft proposal focused on the use of the language tag as a
default for names.

I'm inclined to use a tag that is clearly limited to verifiable features of
human geography. The terminology should also show that the tag is meant to
be used in this database to help interprete name=* tags in particular.
Whether or not a language is "official" or "indigenous" would only be
important as far as it affects the names that people use for local, mapable

Christoph (@imagico)'s original idea was  *language_format=$<language code>*;
eg* language_format=de **for Germany*
I see from the April discussion that Beligium is using
*default_language=<code>*, eg* default_langauge=fr *in southern Belgium.

I like the word "default"; it doesn't make a value judgement or have
positive / negative connotations. And it sounds like it has to do with how
the database should function, which is the right idea. The most common
language used for names should be the "default", whether or not it is

*language:default=<code>* has the advantage of being searchable with a
simple query like "language:default=*" in Taginfo, Overpass and JOSM. But
it requires the use of semicolons to specify multiple default languages.

*language:<code>=default *can specify multiple languages without implying
any order of first to last.
But will it be hard to search for these codes if you don't already know
what language you are looking for? Do standard tools support searching for
something like "language:*=default"?

I also just noticed that Christoph suggested using a "$" symbol before the
2 or 3 digit language code. Would this be necessary or helpful?


On Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 8:19 AM Joseph Eisenberg <joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com>

> Graeme,
> If the level 2 admin_boundary is tagged, it wouldn't be strictly necessary
> to tag each level 4 (State/Province) boundary if all are the same as the
> national level.
> Thank you for bringing up Aboriginal / Native American / First Peoples /
> Minority Ethnic Group language communities. I would suggest tagging these
> boundaries in the same way as admin_level boundaries, if they are
> officially defined by the government in some way, as in Canada and Brazil.
> So if the local Aboriginal or Indian American or First People's government
> has declared that language xx is an official language, it could be marked
> as such. If it isn't official but is widely used in place names, names of
> POIs and natural features it could also be tagged the same as a de facto
> language standard.
> In areas like Indonesia where local ethnic communities do not have special
> autonomy or protection, they language could be tagged on the admin_level
> boundary if appropriate, or on place nodes if the official administration
> areas do not correspond to language communities.
> On Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 7:15 AM Graeme Fitzpatrick <graemefitz1 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> On Fri, 14 Sep 2018 at 23:14, Joseph Eisenberg <
>> joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Would "language:en=yes" be enough for the mainland USA? Or
>>> "language:en=main"; "langauge:en=majority"?
>> I was wondering the same thing for Australia? The official language is
>> English so the level 2 (1 ?) admin zone would be tagged language:en=yes
>> The states would also be en=yes, as that is what is spoken in all the
>> cities & towns of any size, but when you get down to all the small
>> Aboriginal & Torres Straight Island communities it all changes
>> I still would like a way to specify that a language is the native
>>> langauge of that particular places. I believe many Indonesians would
>>> appreciate a way to specify that their local language is the main means of
>>> communication in their village or district, even if Indonesian is the
>>> official language, for example.
>>> Is there a preferred British English terminology for this?
>>> language:xx=local; language:xx=native; language:xx=indigenous?
>> Out of those options, I think I'd go for =local, as the others could have
>> negative connotations?
>> I speak with a couple of people on other forums, one who manages the
>> stores in some of these communities in the Northern Territory & Western
>> Australia, & the other was Head Nurse in a local hospital, so I'll bounce
>> the question of them & report back.
>> Thanks
>> Graeme
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