ISO 639-3 releases list of 2009 changes

Mark Davis ☕ mark at
Fri Jan 22 19:10:13 CET 2010

The information in 639-3 about deu is:

deudeu / ger* <#note> deGerman

Identifier:deuName:GermanStatus:ActiveCode sets: 639-2/T and
639-3Equivalents: 639-1: de
639-2/B: ger <documentation.asp?id=ger>Scope:Individual <scope.asp#I>Type:
Living <types.asp#L>Denotation: See corresponding entry in

That has:

*Population <ethno_docs/introduction.asp#population>* 75,300,000 in Germany
(1990). Population total all countries:
* Also in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark,
Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Mozambique, Namibia,
Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russian Federation
(Europe), Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Tajikistan,
Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan.*
Alternate names* <ethno_docs/introduction.asp#alt_names>*  *Deutsch, Tedesco
*Dialects <ethno_docs/introduction.asp#dialect>* Major related language
areas are Bavarian [bar <show_language.asp?code=bar>], Schwäbian
Alemannisch [gsw <show_language.asp?code=gsw>], Mainfränkisch
Hessisch, Palatinian, Rheinfränkisch, Westfälisch
Saxonian, Thuringian, Brandenburgisch, and Low Saxon
Many varieties are not mutually inherently intelligible. Our present
treatment is incomplete. Standard German is one High German variety, which
developed from the chancery of Saxony, gaining acceptance as the written
standard in the 16th and 17th centuries. High German refers to dialects and
languages in the upper Rhine region. Lexical similarity: 60% with English,
29% with French.*Classification
<ethno_docs/introduction.asp#affiliation>* Indo-European,
Germanic, West, High German, German, Middle German, East Middle
*Language use <ethno_docs/introduction.asp#lguse>* National language.
28,000,000 L2 speakers.*Language development<ethno_docs/introduction.asp#lgdev>
* Taught in primary and secondary schools. Fully developed. Bible:
1466–2004.*Writing system <ethno_docs/introduction.asp#writing>* Latin
script. Latin script, Fraktur variant, used until 1940. Runic script, no
longer in use.*Comments <ethno_docs/introduction.asp#other>* Based equally
on East Upper German and East Middle German. Christian.

First, there is nothing in 639-3 that says that the reference to the
Ethnologue is normative. (And it would be dangerous if it were normative,
since SIL could then arbitrary change the denotation of a language code
without any notice (not saying that they would, but they could).

And even if it were normative, there is nothing in the Ethnologue would
prevent another split like 639-3 is doing with Latvian. By "prevent", I mean
that by applying the same kind of reasoning that led to the Latvian
redefinition (instead of just introducing another language code and leaving
Latvian alone), one could also justify redefining German.

*FYI: I shouldn't even bother commenting on this, since in Unicode we have
mechanisms in place to deal with this instability, but it is annoying.*


On Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 08:03, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:

> Mark Davis â?? scripsit:
> > The way we have it set up, it isn't for us to decide. But consumers of
> BCP47
> > (like CLDR) do have to, if ISO continues to change languages into
> > macrolanguages (will German be next?).
> Very improbable, given the description of 'de(u)' in Ethnologue.
> Though Ethnologue is no more immune to error than ISO 639 [*], it does
> provide the denotation of the vast majority of 639-3 code elements, and
> is clearly about
> Standard German as spoken from Belgium to Kazakhstan, not any other kind
> of German.  It would be a massive and unnecessary widening of the term
> to turn it into a macrolanguage of any sort.
> [*] For example, the 639-3/RA points out that Ethnologue is incorrect
> in saying that the creole of Martinique is Guadelopean Creole French
> 'gcf'; in fact it is Saint Lucian Creole French 'acf'.  A proposal was
> made this year to change the name of 'acf' to "Martiniquan Creole French"
> on historical grounds, which the RA rejected as insufficiently helpful.
> --
> The Unicode Standard does not encode            John Cowan
> idiosyncratic, personal, novel, or private
> use characters, nor does it encode logos
> or graphics.                                    cowan at
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