RFC3066 bis: use of ISO 639-1

Mark Davis mark.davis at jtcsv.com
Sat Dec 6 00:16:45 CET 2003

That's a good idea, and would render it even more stable in the face of
'potential' mistakes by the other organization. The question is when we should
do the same for the country codes, for which there is not even a publicly
available list.

► शिष्यादिच्छेत्पराजयम् ◄

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Constable" <petercon at microsoft.com>
To: <ietf-languages at alvestrand.no>
Sent: Fri, 2003 Dec 05 15:08
Subject: RFC3066 bis: use of ISO 639-1

One issue that has been a concern over the past few years has been with
the fact that ISO 639 two-letter codes have precedence, and there are
languages for which there is now a three-letter code but not a
two-letter code, though potentially a two-letter code could be added in
the future.

E.g. today Hawaiian data is tagged as "haw" because there ISO provides a
three-letter ID but not a two-letter ID, and they don't have a
two-letter ID because Hawaiian doesn't satisfy the criteria for ISO
639-1; but it's a possibility that some day Hawaiian might satisfy those
criteria, and a two-letter ID added. If that were to happen, then all of
a sudden all existing data tagged with "haw" would become incorrectly

To avoid this, the relevant ISO committee was asked to make a commitment
that no two-letter ID would ever be added for languages that already had
a three-letter ID but not a two-letter ID. That's really not a good
approach, IMO, for a couple of reasons:

- It is a reasonable progression as a language develops to come into
scope for ISO 639-2, and then possibly later to come into scope for ISO

- There's nothing to guarantee that a future ISO committee won't choose
to do what the existing committee was asked not to do.

For that reason, I suggest that the use of ISO 639-1 two-letter codes be
frozen to precisely those that exist today. That would mean revising
section 2.2 to say that 2-character primary subtags are limited to a
list, which could be provided in an appendix.


Peter Constable
Globalization Infrastructure and Font Technologies
Microsoft Windows Division

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