ISO 639-5 code list is available

Lang Gérard gerard.lang at
Mon Feb 23 11:48:02 CET 2009

Dear Rebecca,

I would like to warmly thank the Library of Congress, as ISO 639-2/RA and ISO 639-5/RA, to make now ISO 639-5 available.
I nevertheless feel obliged to make some comments concerning the way this is done today.

1-Admitting that it is useful to give access to the normative text of ISO 639-5 (but why not also to the normative text of ISO 639-2 ? This would be most useful because  both standards have narrow links, as results of the text of clause 4 of Part 5, so that a far better comprehension could be allowed by the access to the text of Part 2), the ISO 639-5/RA should only give access to the official version of the ISO 639-5 standard, that is a face-à-face english/french standard allowing to have the most precise interpretation of the standard by comparison within its two normatively equivalent linguistic versions, and to no other version of this text than the official one.. 
Concerning a standard about "Code for the representation of the name of languages", this is more than adequate that a official bilingual text be provided.

2-The Change Notice, that gives many Name changes pertaining only to French language names, is not very readable for a French-only reader.
Moreover, most of these changes seem not to refer to ISO 639-5 only.
In fact, a Name change like "cel" (from celtiques, autres langues and celtiques, langues) [to "celtiques, langues"; "celtes, langues"] has many defects:
(i)-Only "celtiques, langues" appears in the official published text of ISO 639-5 (2008), when "celtiques, autres langues" never was the language name of an ISO 639-5 entry; but it was (and still is because I did noy see any change for this inside ISO/639-2 Change notice), as well as its english counterpart "Celtic (Other)", the language name of the ISO 639-2 entry represented by the ISO 639-2 code element "cel" 
(ii)-So that, if we take it for possible that an ISO 639-5 change name is referring to a change of name from ISO 639-2, a Name change concerning the english version of "cel" should also be given.
(iii)-In the official published text of ISO 639-5 (2008), every entry has a unique english name and also a unique french name, and this is a very nice propriety.
The addition of a language name variant like "celtes, langues" (that in fact does not appear in the description of the considered change, so that this change description cannot be considered as adequate) to the original one "celtiques, langues" does not give any interesting information, and such supererogatory additions (this is the first one and it only concerns the french linguistic version) should be strictly forbidden.
There is generally strictly no interest to depart from this initial politic of uniqueness of the language name, that is coherent wit the french text of clause 6 that writes:
  "Les tableaux inclus sont les suivants:
-Tableau 1, dans l"'ordre alphabétique du nom anglais;
-Tableau 2, dans l'ordre alphabétique du nom français".
The strict application of this text, as well as its english counterpart, does not allow to give variants for language names inside ISO 639-5 Tables.

3-Concerning the particular case of "apa", I see no difference between the language name given inside the published ISO 639-5 (2008) "apache, langues" and the today's ISO 639-5 version of ISO 639-5/RA "apache, langues". The only difference I can see is with the french language name "apache" that is the ISO 639-2 entry represented by the ISO 639-2 code element "apa", that is not  given in the change description.

Bien cordialement.
Gérard LANG
-----Message d'origine-----
De : ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] De la part de Rebecca S Guenther
Envoyé : vendredi 20 février 2009 21:20
À : iso639 at; ietf-languages at
Objet : ISO 639-5 code list is available

The ISO 639-5 code list (Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages. Part 5: Alpha-3 code for language families and groups) is now available from the Library of Congress, which has been designated its Registration authority: 

ISO 639-5 provides a code consisting of language code elements comprising three-letter language identifiers for the representation of names of living and extinct language families and groups.

ISO 639-2 (Alpha-3 code) includes some language groups and language families, but by no means a complete list. The purpose of the code elements for language groups and language families in ISO 639-2 is to provide a means to register the language of a document even when the individual language in question is not included in the code table because it doesn't meet the criteria for establishing a separate code. ISO 639-5 supplements the coding of language groups and language families in ISO 639-2. However, the depth and detail of coding in ISO 639-5 is intended to support the overall language coding of the ISO 639 series of International Standards rather than provide a scientific classification of the languages of the world. 

The list will be maintained by the ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee with the Library of Congress as Registration Authority.

Rebecca S. Guenther                                                       
 Senior Networking and Standards Specialist                  
 Network Development and MARC Standards Office     
 Library of Congress   
 101 Independence Ave. SE                                       
 Washington, DC 20540                                                      
 Washington, DC 20540-4402                                          
 (202) 707-5092 (voice)    (202) 707-0115 (FAX)           
 rgue at

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