ISO 639 name changes: a general correction

Doug Ewell dewell at
Fri Jan 5 16:26:26 CET 2007

Håvard Hjulstad <HHj at standard dot no> wrote:

> I have circulated a number of announcements with the following 
> statement:
> "The implication of this change is that the item is considered a 
> language group rather than an individual language."
> Instead of "language group" I should have used the term 
> "macrolanguage".

No, that's not right.  A macrolanguage is sometimes considered a single 
language and sometimes a family of languages, like "Chinese" or 
"Kurdish."  What we have here are code elements for *groups of 
languages*, more or less loosely affiliated.  That's why they don't 
exist in ISO/FDIS 639-3.  Håvard was right to call these "language 

The distinction between "collection code" and "macrolanguage" is an 
important one that continues to confuse some very intelligent people; 
for more information, see:

Of course, none of this applies to the other announcements for languages 
like "Central Khmer," only for those with the "language group" wording.

Doug Ewell  *  Fullerton, California, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14 

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