ISO 639-5 code list is available

Rebecca S Guenther rgue at
Mon Feb 23 15:43:07 CET 2009

1. I think that Doug Ewell pointed out the availability of the normative
text for ISO 639-2. 

2. The change notice was based on what was changed from the final
version of ISO 639-5 based on a table compiled by Havard Hjulstad, our
secretary. There are a number of language groups that need to be changed
in 639-2, recently balloted by the ISO 639 JAC. These will be changed in
639-2 shortly. The 2 standards will have separate change notices. In
this case, what was published in 639-5 had some differences in language
names compared to what was in 639-2. 
Also, please note that both 639-2 and 639-5 standardize the code
elements, and not the language names. Years ago the ISO 639 JAC agreed
to include alternative language names, since there could not be full
agreement on what to call a language and because of course the standards
are not intended to standardize the language names, just the
identifiers/code elements.

3. There is an error which we will correct. The French name should now
be "apaches, langues" which was changed from the published "apache,


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
>>> Lang Gérard <gerard.lang at> 02/23/09 5:48 AM >>>
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

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 beoriginal 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
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

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
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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