ISO 639 and other language identifiers
Tue, 7 May 2002 14:19:35 -0500

On 05/06/2002 06:32:12 PM Caoimhin O Donnaile wrote:

>1. There needs to be an immediate mass registration of languages.
>   I would just register all the languages in the Ethnologue.

In relation to that, I want to draw people's attention to a paper that my
colleague Gary Simons is presenting at the LREC*  conference this month,
regarding practices that are being adopted to make Ethnologue more useful
as a community standard, in recognition that it has adopted by many as a
de-facto standard. Title: "SIL Three-letter Codes for Identifying
Languages:Migrating from in-house standard to community standard."  Gary
will be submitting this to Havard for the ISO/TC 37/SC 2/WG 1 document
registry, but the paper is also available online at:

(*LREC = Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, organised by the
European Language Resources Association in cooperation with a number of
other agencies -- cf.

>This would mean
>   that nodes which contain only a single language would not be
>   needed and would disappear - e.g. node 1267

>   should be a bit simpler than the present Ethnologue addresses
>   (".../show_family.asp?subid=1267"...

A note about these numeric codes: these are internal identifiers used as
keys within the SQL database and have not been standardised for internal
use -- they are subject to change as the database is updated. The potential
value of standardised identifiers for nodes in language family trees is
certainly worth considering, and I do not mean to imply that they are not
needed. I am merely wanting to make sure people understand that these
particular numbers have not been proposed by us as a standard, either for
our internal use or otherwise.

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <>