historic languages

Peter Constable petercon at microsoft.com
Fri Jul 9 19:27:07 CEST 2010

In ISO 639, historic language varieties that are linguistically different enough from their modern derivatives to be considered distinct languages are handled in exactly that way: as distinct languages. In several cases, multiple distinct historic stages of a language may be coded as distinct languages. For example,

-          "Old Tibetan" (otb) is used for Tibetan of the 7th to 10th centuries AD; "Classical Tibetan" (xct) is used for Tibetan of the 10th to 12th centuries.

-          "Old Korean" (oko) is used for Korean of the 3rd to 9th centuries AD; "Middle Korean" (okm) is used for Korean of the 10th to 16th centuries.

If anyone comes to this list asking for variant subtags for varieties such as "Classical X", "Ancient X", "Old X", "Middle X", etc., then the question should be asked whether the variant in question should be considered a distinct, historic language. If so, then they should request a language ID in ISO 639-3, not a variant subtag.

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