Request of new variant subtag for kichwa (inside qu)

Peter Constable petercon at
Mon Jun 13 18:34:54 CEST 2011

A comment in a bugzilla post is not definitive. For all I know, perhaps there was an email sent to someone in SIL with a not-well-explained description of the usage / status / need regarding "Kichwa". If that's the case, then there's certainly opportunity for a formal and better-formed request to be submitted.

I feel like this thread is rather groping in the dark. Based on the info I've seen provided so far in the thread (I haven't read any of the external sources cited), possibilities include 

- a new individual-language ID in ISO 639-3, 
- a new macrolanguage ID in ISO 639-3, or 
- a variant subtag in the IANA LSTR.

If it's a variant, that would be on the basis then this basically designates an orthography, and in that case I agree with John that the applicable individual language subtags are probably better prefixes than the macrolanguage subtag (though perhaps the latter could also be listed as a valid prefix).


-----Original Message-----
From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of mailler at
Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2011 4:17 AM
To: ietf-languages at
Subject: Re: Ietf-languages Digest, Vol 101, Issue 4

> Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2011 14:52:58 +0200
> From: Kent Karlsson <kent.karlsson14 at>
> However I could find nothing on it either by searching or else where I 
> found primitive Irish, at 

Here is a link to a discussion referring to the request, even though from the discussion it is not clear whether there has been a formal request or the request has stopped after a preliminar discussion :
"After talking to SIL about what would be the correct code, we ended on qu_EC since no new language codes will be assigned for reasons of new dialects, orthograpies or similar less important changes."

> From: John Cowan <cowan at>
> mailler at scripsit:
>> I read that an ISO 639-3 code for Unified kichwa has already been 
>> rejected by SIL, I do not know when or on which ground, I was not 
>> filing the request myself. Possibly, the request was filed the 
>> existing literature was not sufficient (the main books describing the 
>> language are from 2009-2010).
> That sounds like it was an ISO *639-2* request.  I think a 639-3 
> request might be looked on more favorably.
>From the discussion I cite above at, it seems that a request or at least questions have been made to the SIL with the goal of requesting a ISO 639-3 code, and that the SIL said there were no prospects that the request is successful on the grounds that "no new language codes will be assigned for reasons of new dialects, orthograpies or similar less important changes"
> From: John Cowan <cowan at>
> Here are the SIL/ISO standard criteria for defining languages:
> * Two related varieties are normally considered varieties of the same
>   language if speakers of each variety have inherent understanding of
>   the other variety at a functional level (that is, can understand based
>   on knowledge of their own variety without needing to learn the other
>   variety).

I had oral confirmation of that point from a kichwa speaker from the Lowlands who told me that he was able (with some discomfort) to talk to a highland speaker, and from Imbabura speakers (northern highlands) who said they were able to communicate in kichwa with people from the Chimborazo highlands even though it is considered three different languages by SIL. I would compare situation of the kichwa variants inside Ecuador to Occitan in France and neighbouring countries where speakers from distant places are more or less able to understand each other but with a high degree of discomfort (Occitan is considered a single language by SIL).
Interestingly, a comparable merging process seems to have occured massively in 2008 for Mexican/Cantral american languages (Cakchiquel - 9 codes merged -, Quiché - 5 codes merged - and others) in 2008 :

I think that, arguably, the kichwa variants may be merged as well.

However, I clearly don't have the sufficient knowledge and background to go there and request that they change this, nor would I want to do that, it regards primarily kichwa speakers or at least Ecuadorian people (in my
opinion) whereas having a new IETF code like qu-kichwa just to recognize the existence of the "unified" version doesn't hurt anyone and doesn't negate the existence of the regional ways of speaking, so that it would be the least intrusive thing to do right now in my opinion.


Sylvain Mailler

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