Missing subtags 003 and 172

Doug Ewell doug at ewellic.org
Fri Jul 30 15:45:38 CEST 2010

Mark Davis ♔ <mark at macchiato dot com> wrote:

> We found that there are 2 subtags that are missing from the registry.
> %%
> Type: region
> Subtag: 003
> Description: North America
> %%
> Type: region
> Subtag: 172
> Description: Commonwealth of Independent States

There were detailed discussions on the LTRU list about these two UN M.49 
code elements, in separate threads, in March and April 2005. 
Unfortunately, the LTRU archives are not available in a 
batch-downloadable format as the ietf-languages archives are, so digging 
through this information is much more tedious than it could be.

003 (North America) is defined in a footnote as comprising 013 (Central 
America) plus 021 (Northern America) plus 029 (Caribbean).  RFC 4645 
said that the code elements assigned to "macro-geographical 
(continental)" regions in M.49 were added, which is why 003 was not 
added; it did not appear in that category, but in a footnote, probably 
because it does not fit cleanly into the overall M.49 hierarchy.

172 (Commonwealth of Independent States) is an economic grouping, which 
is explicitly excluded in RFC 4645.  (We also didn't include things like 
432 (Landlocked developing countries) and 722 (Small island developing 

RFC 5646, Section 2.2.4, items 4.A through 4.F set out the rules for 
which M.49 code elements are in or out.  See also RFC 5646, Section 3.4, 
item 16:  "UN M.49 has codes for both 'countries and areas' (such as 
'276' for Germany) and "geographical regions and sub-regions" (such as 
'150' for Europe).  UN M.49 country or area codes for which there is no 
corresponding ISO 3166-1 code MUST NOT be registered, except as a 
surrogate for an ISO 3166-1 code that is blocked from registration by an 
existing subtag."

As it turned out, since the publication of RFC 4645 the LTRU WG decided 
to include EU (European Union) as a region subtag, despite any evidence 
of its usefulness for identifying language usage, because it was deemed 
desirable for use in CLDR locales.  (I assume that is who Mark means by 
"we.")  We even invented a new rule about admitting "exceptionally 
reserved" ISO 3166-1 code elements just to allow EU.  So while the 
original decision to exclude 003 and 172 was based on the LTRU consensus 
in 2005 about which country codes were appropriate for language tagging 
and which were not, the subsequent rule change could be seen as calling 
this into question.  (Perhaps 432 and 722 are now seen as useful in 
language tags too!)

As has been the case since the publication of RFC 4646, we can register 
subtags based on the external standards only if something has changed 
about their status in the external standard.  We cannot simply decide we 
want to change the rules and allow previously excluded values.  So if 
Mark wants to permit the use of 003 and 172 in BCP 47 language tags, 
this amendment needs to appear in an RFC.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | http://www.ewellic.org
RFC 5645, 4645, UTN #14 | ietf-languages @ is dot gd slash 2kf0s ­

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