Alpha-4 language codes

John Clews scripts20 at
Wed Jun 30 14:15:44 CEST 2004

What does ISO 639 and its users gain from a four letter code?
It won't be used in tagging, which is clear from below.

What would an alpha-4 language code be used for?

And why is it necessary to be in an international standard?

I've still received no satisfactory answer on this point.

I've no objection to the Linguasphere referential codes, which are a very
useful self-contained system.

I've just been querying the role of an alpha-4 language code.

John Clews

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
>Subject: Re: [YES] The Linguasphere proposal is suited to RFC 3066
>(oritssuccessors) and its consuming protocols
>From:    "John Cowan" <cowan at>
>Date:    Tue, June 22, 2004 3:04 pm
>To:      "John Clews" <scripts20 at>
>Cc:      ietf-languages at

John Clews scripsit:

> Debbie Garside wrote (and her text is included in "quotes" as blow:
> "The LS 639 referential scale would not be used for tagging data."
> 1. Why then are we discussing LS 639 in this forum?
> The ietf-languages at list, and indeed RFC 3066 and its
predecessors (and successors) are only for tagging data.

Note the word "referential".  The referential codes are used to
show the relations of languages, and are distinct from the 4-alpha codes
used to tag languages.  Only the latter are proposed for ISO 639.

John Cowan  cowan at

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