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DATE: May 27, 2011

NAME: Adapting Field 377 (Associated Language) for Language of Expression in the MARC 21 Authority and Bibliographic Formats

SOURCE: RDA/MARC Working Group

SUMMARY: This proposal suggests adapting the definition of field 377 in the Authority format to include Language of expression, and adding it to the Bibliographic format.

KEYWORDS: Field 377 (BD, AD); Language of expression (BD, AD); RDA

RELATED: 2011-DP02; 2009-01/1;  2008-DP05/2

05/27/11 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

06/26/11 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: Approved as amended. Adopt Option 2, using subfield $l instead of subfield $b for Language term. More examples with multiple languages and with languages that come from a language group will be provided.

07/19/11 - Results of LC/LAC/BL review - Agreed with the MARBI decision.

Proposal No. 2011-04: Adapting field 377 for Language of Expression


RDA considers Language of expression (6.11) a core element when needed to differentiate an expression of a work from another expression of the same work. It specifies using an appropriate term denoting the language recorded in the language preferred by the agency creating the data.  A description of the expression could be carried in a MARC 21 bibliographic or authority record, although currently many institutions use authority records. In a bibliographic record, language information is carried in field 008/35-37 in combination with field 041 and field 546 (Language Note). In an authority record the only place for the data now is in subfield $l of the access point in field 1XX. A separate data element is desirable for this information so that it is recorded whether or not it is in the heading, since it may be needed later to break a conflict, e.g. if the resource is made available in another language.

Proposal No. 2009-01/1 defined field 377 (Associated Language) to accommodate the RDA elements Language of the person and Language of the corporate body. This followed an initial discussion in Discussion Paper 2008-DP05/2, which included two options: defining Bibliographic field 041 or a new field. The decision was to use a new field, since the definition of language in the Authority format was different from that in the Bibliographic format (i.e. language of a person or corporate body vs. language of the resource), and many of the subfields in field 041 were inappropriate for the RDA elements that were being defined. The description and scope of field 377 currently limits the use of the field to language of the person or corporate body. The field is similar to 041 in the Bibliographic format in its use of a language code, although the indicator and defined subfields are not the same.

Field 377 is currently defined in the Authority format as follows:


2.1. Extending field 377

Discussion Paper 2011-DP02 (Additional Name and Resource Attributes for RDA in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats), in section 2.1 discussed the addition of field 377 to the Bibliographic format for Language of expression. The preference was for broadening the definition of the field and subfield $a to include language of expression in addition to language of person/corporate body. It was acknowledged that language of family should also be included, although it was not yet covered by RDA. If the field is included in the Bibliographic format, where there is also field 041 for language coding, it needs to be explicit that only language of expression is used here.

There was some discussion of adding an additional subfield for Language term to be consistent with some of the other fields that were added for RDA.  For instance, field 336 (Content Type), in both the Authority and Bibliographic formats was defined for the RDA term, but it was decided that a code would be useful for international users so a subfield $b was included for content type in coded form.  In the Bibliographic format fields 337 (Media Type) and 338 (Carrier Type) also use this structure of separate subfields for term ($a) and code ($b). However, the other new fields in the Authority format (e.g. gender, associated place, etc.) include only one subfield for the term, and no subfield for code is defined. In the case of language coding, assigning a term to a language could be problematic, since there are different names that people call languages, and the name that is used can become a political issue (e.g. Moldovan is only called that in Moldova but uses the same code as Romanian because it is the same language). In addition, language information in MARC has always been in coded form except when expressed as a note essentially because of these politically sensitive issues. Thus, adding a subfield for language term is provided as an option and needs further discussion. In fields 336, 337 and 338 where both a subfield for term and code are provided, subfield $a is used for term and subfield $b is used for code. Whether this structure should be carried into field 377 for the sake of consistency might also warrant discussion, which would require changing $a to Language term and $b to Language code. The importance of supplying the term for a language name rather than just a code is most obvious in cases where language names are valid but a group code is used in the MARC Code List for Languages.  For example, “Bunun” is a valid language term in the MARC list, but a group code is used (“map” for Austronesian (Other)).  The language name “Bunun” is what is needed in a 1XX $l, not “Austronesian (Other))”, so it is likely that term would also be useful in a 377 field.

Field 377 could be revised as follows in the Authority format and added to the Bibliographic format:

2.2. Guidance for language coding

Rules need to be provided in the Bibliographic format to give users guidance as to how field 377 is used in relation to field 008/35-37, 041 and 546 in those cases where the Bibliographic format is used to represent a work or expression with no manifestation information, rather than the Authority format (note: this is not a use of the Bibliographic format known in the North American context; bibliographic records currently can include attributes of works and expressions, but they also provide manifestation-level information that would not be present in the context discussed below). Possible rules are:

Bibliographic format:
At 008:  The 008 supports primarily machine indexing of the language of the resource for user tasks to find and select.  Always supply 008 for a resource/manifestation or an expression, but do not supply if the record is for a work.

At 041:  Supply 041 as needed and as applicable in bibliographic records for the manifestation only; do not use if the record is for a work or expression. 

At 546:  Use 546 to record textual information about language in bibliographic records for the manifestation or expression; do not use if the record is for a work. 

At 377:  When the resource description is for an expression, the 377 can be supplied even when one 377 duplicates the language information in the heading $l.  In an expression description, fields 008 and 546 may also contain language information.

Authority format:
At 377: use for the language written or spoken by a person or family, used in communication by a corporation, or used as the language of an expression.  Supports data management tasks, including indicating language in the heading of the resource if needed.


3.1. Option 1. Revise the definition of field 377 to include Language of expression, but keep the subfields as they are.

3.2. Option 2. Revise field 377 as above and add subfield $b for Language term.

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