[Tagging] What language is the name tag value? Was: Which languages are admissible for name:xx tags?

Joseph Eisenberg joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com
Thu Mar 26 23:53:22 UTC 2020

Note that there were several rejected proposals before mine, including
these two by Sommerluk:



And note that after the last proposal, another user added
default_language to most admin_level=2 features, though it hasn't been
used yet for smaller areas as would be needed (and the description
about mullti-lingual areas is confusing):


-- Joseph Eisenberg

On 3/27/20, Tod Fitch <tod at fitchfamily.org> wrote:
> I was blissfully unaware of the issues involved in creating a bilingual map
> (dual labeled in the local language and in my language) until I actually
> tried to create one.
> Most objects in OSM do not have name:<lg> tags for non-local languages and
> it is unreasonable to expect that every named village, town, river and
> stream in some far off land have a name:<lg> value for your language.
> Especially since the vast majority of the values would be transliterations
> which we would like to avoid [1].
> In my case I thought it would be useful to have a printed map with features
> showing the local name in the local language and script along with an
> English version of the name. If the name:en existed use it. If not then use
> an automatically generated phonetic transliteration. The problem I ran into
> was you need to know the language used in the name tag [2] to know what
> rules to use for transliteration.
> As I understand it, there are several ways to determine the language and
> there has been at least a couple of proposals or tagging list discussions on
> this topic but with no consensus. The ones that come to mind for me are:
> 1. The current situation where the there is no formal method. If one follows
> the wiki recommendation [3] that the name value be duplicated into a
> name:<lg> tag then the language can be determined in many cases.
> Unfortunately this fall apart if the same spelling and alphabet are used
> with different pronunciations. An example that comes to mind would be for
> the city of Paris where there are several name:<lg> tags that exactly match
> the name value. Which one should be picked? The pronunciations are different
> in different languages, if you are going to attempt automatic
> transliteration you would like to correctly pick French as the language to
> transliterate from. So the current situation is not ideal: This wiki
> recommendation is seldom followed. If it is then some mappers are going to
> decide that the “duplicates” are undesirable and remove them. And, if
> followed there are fairly common cases where it still is not possible to
> determine the language.
> 2. Create a scheme where a default language can be set on boundaries as has
> been suggested by Joseph Eisenberg [4]. This has the advantage that
> relatively few objects need to be tagged, for example it might be possible
> that only one tag could be used to cover the continental United States. But
> it falls apart for features that are on the boundary between multiple
> language areas (Mediterranean Sea for example) and for areas that are
> multilingual (Wales for example). In addition, it seems that any type of “we
> should add a default for an administrative area” proposal that has come up
> here has been rejected or “bike shedded” into oblivion.
> 3. Drop the name tag altogether and add a name formatting tag [5]. As I
> understand it, the formatting specification would be used to take one or
> more name:<lg> values and specify how they should be combined to create a
> name for display purposes. Migrating to this scheme could be hard and may
> only be possible if a default name format could be specified for an area as
> in the default language scheme in 2 above. Even if a default mechanism could
> be agreed to, the magnitude of changing all the name=* to name:<lg>=* for
> even a relative small monolingual area would be a big task if automated
> changes are not used. Finally, it does not resolve the issue of ambiguity in
> the language used.
> 4. Create a new tag explicitly specifying the language used in the name tag.
> This has the same disadvantage as the current wiki recommendation for
> duplicating the name value into a name:<lg> value in that it has to be done
> on each object. But it does have the advantage that it there is no ambiguity
> in showing the language of the name tag value and it can be rolled out a
> little at a time.
> 5. ??? There are probably other schemes that have been proposed that I
> haven’t noticed.
> Thoughts?
> —Tod
> [1] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Names#Avoid_transliteration
> [2] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Multilingual_names#Issues
> [3]
> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Names#Repeating_name_with_language_specific_tag
> [4]
> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Proposed_features/Default_Language_Format
> [5]
> http://blog.imagico.de/you-name-it-on-representing-geographic-diversity-in-names/
>> On Mar 25, 2020, at 11:25 PM, Joseph Eisenberg
>> <joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com> wrote:
>> That's why I previously proposed a tag like default_language=* which
>> could be added to features and boundaries. See
>> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Proposed_features/Default_Language_Format
>> Unfortunately that was not approved. It's a confusing topic, many of
>> the people who opposed the proposal seemed to think it would do
>> something else.
>> -- Joseph Eisenberg

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