Proposed Successor to RFC 3066 (language tags)

John Cowan cowan at
Sun Nov 23 23:37:09 CET 2003

Addison Phillips [wM] scripsit:

> RFC3066 should have a firmer policy, I believe, of not registering languages
> until ISO639 has positively made a determination. If 'zh' is Mandarin, then
> 'xiang' should get its own ISO639. If 'zh' is generic Chinese (whatever that
> is), then 'xiang' may still warrant an ISO639 tag, and failing that should
> be considered for a base language registration. Do you think that 'xiang' or
> some other dialect forms a case that goes outside of this? What would be the
> criteria for registering a subtag like that?

The trouble is that ISO 639-2 at least is about registering language tags
for documents, and languages that are either not written or (as in the
case of Xiang) are "written" by writing a closely related language instead,
wind up out in the cold, unless someone has sufficient audio(-visual)
material to justify an ISO 639-2 registration.  ISO 639-3 is supposed to
provide a more comprehensive registry, but I don't know how that's going,
if at all.

OTOH, there are sufficient collective codes (both explicitly marked as such
and not) in ISO 639-2 to blanket the entire Ethnologue and probably to
handle most archaic languages as well, though this last claim has not been
proved.  By allowing registered tags of this type, we can work around the
problem until ISO 639 cleans up its act.

John Cowan                              <jcowan at>  
                .e'osai ko sarji la lojban.
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