New road classification / 1 – too many languages

This is the first of a short series of (short) posts on a new road classification.

There are many different types of road. An incomplete list might begin with:

  • Autobahnen
  • baulich getrennte Fahrbahnen
  • drogi dwujezdniowym
  • drogi jednojezdniowym
  • dual 2-lane (7.3m) all purpose (rural roads)
  • dual 2-lane rural motorway
  • Kreisstrassen
  • Landesstrassen
  • single four-lane carriageways
  • single two-lane carriageways (urban roads)
  • via con cuatro calzadas separadas
  • via con dos carriles
  • via de circonvalacion
  • via de descongestion
  • wide single carriageways
  • WS2 urban roads of type B
  • zwei spurige Stadtstrassen

This list presents a problem – particularly for the proverbial Englishman who only speaks one language – since, besides English, it also contains terms in German, Spanish and Polish. And it does not even begin to discuss the problem of the many languages which do not use Roman characters, such as Arabic and Chinese.

We could try and complete the list of road types adding terms from all the world’s different countries and languages. However this raises a new problem. Stephen Anderson, writing (here) says:

“The most extensive catalog of the world’s languages, generally taken to be as authoritative as any, is that of Ethnologue (published by SIL International), whose detailed classified list as of 2009 included 6,909 distinct languages”

A score of more terms for road classes / types, found in each of almost 7,000 languages, would give around 140,000 terms.

We are living in an international world, where many roads (and some road design standards) cross language borders as well as political borders. It would help if people from different language areas could have a common reference for discussions on roads. Since English is widely spoken in the engineering world, perhaps we could begin with a list of terms taken from English ?


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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