New UN M.49 code element for South Sudan

Doug Ewell doug at
Sat Jul 16 22:56:02 CEST 2011

Correction: according to Section 2.2.4, numeric codes can be registered only if ISO 3166 reuses an alpha-2 code, as they did with CS.
Doug Ewell • doug at
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-----Original Message-----
From: "Doug Ewell" <doug at>
Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2011 20:20:03 
To: <Misha.Wolf at>; <ietf-languages at>
Reply-To: doug at
Subject: Re: New UN M.49 code element for South Sudan

The short answer is, region subtags don't attempt to cover that level of detail. If someone comes up with an actual language-tagging scenario where this ambiguity will pose a problem, we can look into the provision of BCP 47 that allows registering UN numeric codes directly. But I hope it doesn't come to that.

Doug Ewell • doug at
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-----Original Message-----
From: Misha.Wolf at
Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2011 20:50:20 
To: <doug at>; <ietf-languages at>
Subject: RE: New UN M.49 code element for South Sudan

OK, but the “SD” in language tags will then change from denoting one region to denoting another region (which is a subset of the first region).  This may not cause a problem.  I don’t know.


It’s the same case as “YU” which used to denote one region and then denoted a substantially smaller region, before being replaced by “CS”.





From: Doug Ewell [mailto:doug at] 
Sent: 16 July 2011 20:44
To: Wolf, Misha (M Content Mktpl); ietf-languages at
Subject: Re: New UN M.49 code element for South Sudan


Misha Wolf <Misha dot Wolf at thomsonreuters dot com <mailto:Misha.Wolf at> > wrote:


What will we do re the rump “Sudan” if the ISO 3166 MA gives it the “SD” Alpha-2 code which used to belong to the old Sudan?


Good question.  That will almost certainly happen; the MA almost never changes code elements unless the name of the country changes substantially.  That being the case, we have little rationale for changing the subtag.


The answer is that we can:


(a) Do nothing, or


(b) Add a Comments field to the record for SD, something to the effect of “See also XX”, in case we feel that this is necessary to identify a regional variety of one of the 133 (Ethnologue) living languages spoken in the old Sudan.


Optionally, we can also add a “See also SD” comment to the new XX region record.  This might provide a hint for backward-compatible matching, but again it would only be justified in the case where some language ‘xxx’ is spoken in South Sudan and also somewhere else, and the South Sudan variety needs to be identified as such in language tags, and this would have been tagged “xxx-SD” previously, and “xxx-XX” in the future.


As a side note, I have no clue what the new alpha-2 code element will be.  Western European representatives on the MA might object to ‘SS’.


Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | RFC 5645, 4645, UTN #14 | | @DougEwell ­

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