ISO 639-2 decision: "mis"

Addison Phillips addison at
Thu Jun 14 01:32:37 CEST 2007

I note that this is what most people probably thought it meant in the
first place. It is the only meaning that makes any sense and I cheer
this clarification.

Yes, the "meaning" of the 'mis' code is "narrowed" by additions of codes
(assuming that codes added alway cover additional languages and not just
finer gradations of existing ones, a case that isn't that uncommon)---if
one takes a collective view of all content in the universe and assigns
it a language tag today.

But the definition of the 'mis' code is exactly what 4646bis is 
currently set to say: stuff whose language is known (not 'und') but 
which you can't otherwise tag, either because no code is available or 
(more likely) the code isn't available to your application.

The reasons for using the 'mis' code are limited and I suspect that we
hardly ever see it in the wild nor will we in the future. As a tag it 
only has meaning in the context of a fixed set of content and it has 
essentially no meaning in language ranges except when working with sets 
that are known to use it.

As for deprecation, I think this is such a perverse interpretation of 
the meaning of "narrows" that I can't see following through on it with 
deprecation. Let's fix our draft text and move along. Currently the 
draft for the next version of BCP 47 informs users why the subtag has 
limited value and say that it SHOULD NOT be used. That's strong enough.


Mark Davis wrote:
> This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is great to finally get some 
> clarity on the intended meaning for the future. On the other hand, it 
> means that this code's meaning is intrinsically intended to narrow over 
> time; as each new code is added, its meaning narrows to cover fewer 
> situations. This is inherently *unstable*, and unsuitable for any 
> situation that demands stability, like BCP 47.
> Note that this still does not allow a narrowing of "mis" in BCP 47. 
> However, for this case I think it makes the case strong enough for 
> completely deprecating "mis" in BCP 47bis.
> Mark
> On 6/13/07, *John Cowan* <cowan at <mailto:cowan at>> wrote:
>     Håvard  Hjulstad scripsit:
>      > The identifier mis, which has been part of ISO 639-2 since its
>      > publication in 1998, has its scope changed from collective to special
>      > purpose.
>      >
>      > The previously assigned "names" in English and French were
>      > "miscellaneous languages" and "diverses, langues". These "names"
>      > have been changed to uncoded languages and langues non codées.
>     Hurrah!
>     --
>     In my last lifetime,                            John Cowan
>     I believed in
>     reincarnation;          
>     in this lifetime,                               cowan at
>     <mailto:cowan at>
>     I don't.  --Thiagi
>     _______________________________________________
>     Ietf-languages mailing list
>     Ietf-languages at <mailto:Ietf-languages at>
> -- 
> Mark
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Addison Phillips
Globalization Architect -- Yahoo! Inc.
Chair -- W3C Internationalization Core WG

Internationalization is an architecture.
It is not a feature.

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