ISO 639-6 (RE: Proposed Successor to RFC 3066 (language tags))

Håvard Hjulstad havard at
Thu Nov 27 11:05:24 CET 2003

Very briefly:

ISO 639-3: alpha-3 code for "all" "individual languages" that are not
included in 639-2 (somewhere between 6000 and 7000). The project was
approved at the meeting of ISO/TC37/SC2 in August 2003, and a document is
currently out for Committee Draft (CD) ballot. The project is to a large
extent based on the Ethnologue catalogue, and it is experts at SIL
International that are editing the standard.

ISO 639-4: In an ideal world this would have been Part 1 (or "Part 0"). It
is going to give implementation guidelines and principles of language
coding. The project was approved at the same meeting in August 2003. The
first Working Draft is planned for the end of this year. A small group from
TC37/SC2/WG1 is going to work with this project during the next about 6-8
months, leading up to a discussion at the TC37/SC2 meeting in August of

ISO 639-5: alpha-3 code for language groups and language families. ISO 639-2
contains some language groups, but it has been felt to be necessary to
"clean up" this part of language coding. The project was approved at the
meeting in August 2003. The first Working Draft will be made available to
TC37/SC2/WG1 members shortly. I am project editor of this project.

ISO 639-6: This was discussed at the meeting in August 2003, based on a not
fully developed New Work Item Proposal (drafted by me). It was obviously not
ready for approval, and experts representing BSI were asked to produce a
NWIP by the August 2004 meeting. It will then be up to the committee
(ISO/TC37/SC2) to approve, modify or reject the proposal. My idea was to
develop a standard for coding of language variation; spoken and written
language, register, orthography, etc. I called it "extension coding for
language variation", thinking that additional elements would be added to
language identifiers from parts 1, 2, 3, and 5. However, all of this is
entirely open as of now.

Håvard Hjulstad

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at 
> [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of 
> Harald Tveit Alvestrand
> Sent: 27. november 2003 02:25
> To: Debbie Garside; Randy Presuhn; ietf-languages at
> Subject: ISO 639-6 (RE: Proposed Successor to RFC 3066 
> (language tags))
> Is there anywhere (freely accessible) a document that 
> explains the roadmap 
> and purposes of the suddenly burgeoning set of ISO 639 standards?
> I understood ISO 639-1 and believe I understood the reason 
> for 639-2. I have a serious lack of clue about ISO 639-3, but 
> the project to develop 
> ISO 639-6 seems to also imply the existence of 639-4 and 
> 639-5, which I 
> know *nothing* about.
> Can someone enlighten me/us with pointers to the description of the 
> purpose, principles, timelines and responsible agencies for 
> these projects 
> - and to what degree the relevant ISO TC has committed to 
> seeing these 
> projects completed?
>                  Harlad 
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