additions to ISO 639 and the IANA language subtag registry

Doug Ewell dewell at
Mon Feb 20 22:31:06 CET 2006

Peter Constable <petercon at microsoft dot com> wrote:

> What exactly in RFC3066bis requires that every lang ID added to ISO
> 639 must be included in the language subtag registry? (I'm talking
> about additions, not the initial registry.)
> Section 3.3 says that the reviewer
> - MUST evaluate each change, determine whether it conflicts with
> existing registry entries, and submit the information to IANA for
> inclusion in the registry
> - "MUST ensure that new subtags meet the requirements in Section 4.1
> (Choice of Language Tag) or submit an appropriate alternate subtag as
> described in that section"
> Re the first point, the role of evaluation suggests the option to make
> some decision about the impact of the change wrt the registry. The
> text might be read to mean that the reviewer can decide not to add a
> new ISO 639 ID to the registry in the particular case that the ID
> conflicts with an existing subtag, though that's vague, as is the
> criteria for "conflicts".

I think in the first point, the "evaluation" is simply to determine 
whether the proposed addition or change conflicts with existing registry 
entries, nothing more.  In other words, the first comma could be 
replaced with the word "to."

The primary intent of this point -- stop me if you've heard this 
before -- was to avoid adding a recycled ISO code element as a subtag 
with a conflicting meaning.  For example, if RFC 3066bis had existed 
back in 2003, with CS for Czechoslovakia and YU for Yugoslavia, and ISO 
3166/MA redefined CS to mean Serbia and Montenegro (as they did), then 
it would be the responsibility of the Reviewer (or his designees :) to 
determine that a conflict existed, and to decline to submit the change 
to IANA.

Since ISO 639 RA-JAC is not usually in the habit of recycling its 
withdrawn code elements, such as "in" and "iw", it's unlikely this 
scenario would occur with primary language subtags.  But that is the 

Doug Ewell
Fullerton, California, USA

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