ISO 639 JAC decision: Spanish (spa)

Håvard Hjulstad hhj at
Mon Jul 12 09:10:57 CEST 2004

The ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) has decided the following:
The identifier for Spanish shall remain "spa" (and "spa" only) in the ISO
639 alpha-3 code list, in the T list as well as in the B list.
The background for this "no-change decision" is the following:
In ISO 639-2:1998 this footnote is found on pages 18, 24, 46, and 60:

"After a period of five years from the publication of this standard, esp may
be used as the ISO 639-2/T (terminology code) for Spanish."
"Après une période de cinq ans suivant la publication de cette norme, esp
pourra être utilisé pour l'espagnol autant que l'ISO 639-2/T (codet

The text of this footnote has been interpreted in different ways, and the
JAC has wished to clarify the issue once and for all. The footnote will be
removed from ISO 639-2, and "spa" will be the only alpha-3 identifier. It is
not correct to assume that "esp" is a "deprecated" identifier for Spanish,
as "esp" was only reserved for possible future use for Spanish, never
actually assigned.

The English name of the item is "Spanish; Castilian", the French name is
"espagnol; castillan", and the indigenous name is "español; castellano".
Just to clarify: The item in question is the Spanish language in general,
not "Spanish as used in Spain".


Best regards,
Håvard Hjulstad
(secretary of ISO 639 JAC)

Håvard Hjulstad
Standard Norge / Standards Norway
  P.O.Box 242, NO-1326 Lysaker (Norway)
  +47 67838645 (direct)   fax: +47 67838601 <> 
mailto:hhj at <mailto:hhj at> 
mailto:havard at <mailto:havard at> 
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