Wikimedia language codes

Debbie Garside debbie at
Sun Nov 12 19:16:35 CET 2006


Your need is for ISO 639-6. This part of the ISO 639 family is due for
publication in January 2008.

Best regards

Debbie Garside
Editor ISO DIS 639-6 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at 
> [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of 
> Gerard Meijssen
> Sent: 12 November 2006 18:08
> To: ietf-languages at
> Subject: Wikimedia language codes
> Hoi,
> I have said a few things in another mail thread and I think 
> it is helpful when I explain what I am looking for and what 
> my current issues are. In this mail I will only address needs 
> that we have in the Wikimedia Foundation.
> *==Wikimedia Foundation==*
> The Wikimedia Foundation has at this moment in time exactly 
> 250 different Wikipedia projects. Some of them have a code 
> that is incompatible with any ISO-639 code of any version. 
> There are projects that have codes that are squatting on 
> existing ISO-639 codes. There are codes that have been made 
> up that currently do not trespass on what are the codes of 
> other languages however, I would not be surprised when this 
> infringes on the terms of use of the ISO-639 codes. My 
> understanding is that it is not permitted to use codes that 
> can be mistaken for valid codes.
> As there is now a "language sub-committee" in the Wikimedia 
> Foundation, and as it is our brief to come up with 
> recommendations for the creation of new projects and as the 
> CTO of the Wikimedia Foundation is not pleased with this 
> situation, one of the tasks in front of us is to come up with 
> the appropriate codes for the existing projects. This is not 
> simple and it is certainly not straight forward. One of the 
> disputes is about the Belaruse wikipedia that has been 
> squatted by people who insist on using an orthography that is 
> not the official one. There is a vibrant group of Belaruse 
> using the official orthography that wants to claim on the 
> same domain. This is one among many, most are largely political.
> One of our problems is not solved because you do not consider the
> ISO-639-3 "official". This is the existence of a Wikipedia in 
> Maldovan. 
> What we do understand is  that none of the ISO-639-3 codes 
> will ever be used other then for its defined purpose.
> An often recurring theme in our request for new projects is 
> that people claim that something is a language. It happens 
> regularly that the proponents point to what should be amounts 
> of impressive content either in archives, libraries on the 
> Internet, all stuff  that is to most of us goobledegook. 
> Often it is claimed that they have applied for recognition 
> for their language. It does not make sense to request it from 
> anyone but Ethnologue as the ISO-639-2 is at its end of life.
> There was some earlier discussion of the Min-Nan language on 
> this mailing list. For your information both the Min-Nan 
> Wiktionary and Wikipedia are not in either the Hant or the 
> Hans script, it uses Latn.When you start off from zh as the 
> basis you insist on and equally the people who write Min-Nan 
> without exception use Latn, the code zh-nan-Latn is not 
> logical at all. NB these are really active projects.
> For the Wikimedia Foundation there are a number of options;
>     * We use our WMF language codes  internally and 
> externally. This is
>       imho from a standards point of view a worst case scenario
>     * We use our  codes internally and externally we advertise the
>       "official" codes.
>     * We sanitise our codes so that there is at least no conflict with
>       the ISO-639 codes. We use them internally and we advertise the
>       "official" codes.
>     * We move away from our current codes and only use 
> "official" codes
>       both internally and externally.
> It is as difficult to make the Wikimedia Foundation move as 
> it is to get movement about Standards I suspect. I think it 
> we need a plan how this can be solved. There are at least two 
> lists I would like to have that would help:
>     * A list with the all the ISO-639 codes (1, 2 and 3) and the codes
>       that these languages have under RFC 4646.
>     * A list with the WMF language codes and the language codes under
>       RFC 4646.
> I am sure that the first list exists. With this list it is 
> possible to compile the second list. For some WMF language 
> codes we may need to ask for tags to identify them properly 
> by their dialect, orthography or whatever makes them special.
> Thanks,
>    Gerard Meijssen aka GerardM
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