Ietf-languages Digest, Vol 74, Issue 1

Anthony Aristar aristar at
Thu Feb 26 16:08:43 CET 2009

Dear Debbie:

I think you might find mapping our data to your db more of a chore than 
you think.  The MultiTree database
currently has 47633 entries, so it is quite substantial...  I'd be 
interested to see a sample of your data before
we go any further.

All the best

Debbie Garside wrote:
> Hi Anthony
> ISO FDIS 639-6 will be published shortly (within 4-5 weeks)!  The data
> supporting the standard includes many additional sub-grouping codes and uses
> the alpha4 code space for new entries into the ISO 639 family.  I am sure
> that the names we have used and the mixing of geographical and genetic
> groupings etc. will also make you and your colleagues cringe - but there is
> an old saying - you can please some of the people some of the time, and some
> of the people all of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of
> the time :-)
> However, that said, we currently have 26,000 linguistic entities and this
> will rise to 30,000+ when the project has been completed - later this year.
> I am sure that this will keep linguists busy for a while and there will also
> be scope for adding entities to ISO 639-6.  ISO 639-6 incorporates ISO 639-3
> and ISO 639-5 and is hierarchical in nature - mother/child/sibling
> relationships.
> It would have been nice to work with people on this but unfortunately a lack
> of funds has meant that we could not provide the system for the public
> verification process as was first planned.  However, it is not too late and
> if you send me your data I will endeavor to map it onto the standardized
> data and change names as appropriate.  Are you a splitter or a clumper :-)
> I will let you (and everyone else) know when the code becomes available -
> hopefully when the concept database comes on line later this year.  GeoLang
> Ltd is currently the proposed RA.
> Kind regards
> Debbie
> Editor ISO FDIS 639-6 
> Debbie Garside
> Managing Director
> GeoLang Ltd
> Corner House
> Barn Street
> Haverfordwest
> Pembrokeshire SA61 1BW
> Wales UK
> Tel: 0044 1437 766441
> Web: 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ietf-languages-bounces at
> [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Anthony Aristar
> Sent: 21 February 2009 14:51
> To: ietf-languages at
> Subject: Re: Ietf-languages Digest, Vol 74, Issue 1
> Good to hear this, but unfortunately the ISO 639-5 standard is really a 
> problem. 
> First, it is, like the original 639-1, so small as to be relatively 
> useless.  The fact that it can be expanded through the normal change 
> process is not very useful:  it will take a *LONG* time to get 
> everything in that we as linguists need.  I might note that, as of 
> today, we are using well over 2200 subgrouping codes in our MultiTree 
> project--and the number keeps going up-- and the 110 codes that are in 
> the 639-5 set are a twentieth of that,   In addition, the code-set is a 
> mish-mash that is very reminiscent of the mess that ISO 639-1/2 were 
> before ISO 639-3 came along:  it has geographical groupings mixed up 
> with genetic groupings, for example, and some of the names used are  
> enough to make linguists cringe.
> Second, the use of Alpha-3 makes the codes easily confusable with ISO 
> 639-3 .  I know of at least one project that simply wont use them 
> because of this.
> Anyway, we need a real set of subgrouping codes, but to my knowledge the 
> attempt to produce one has stalled...

Anthony Aristar, Director, Institute for Language & Information Technology
  Professor of Linguistics            Moderator, LINGUIST Linguistics Program
Dept. of English                       aristar at
Eastern Michigan University            2000 Huron River Dr, Suite 104
Ypsilanti, MI 48197


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