ISO 639-3 2011 changes: ikt

Doug Ewell doug at
Thu Aug 9 00:17:59 CEST 2012

Philip Newton <philip dot newton at gmail dot com> wrote:

> Are names listed alphabetically?
> Because the impression I got from reading
> is that "Inuinnaqtun" was added as an additional reference name; I
> would have expected it to be added at the end of the list in the
> subtag registry entry.

Each ISO 639-3 code element has exactly one "reference name" (excluding
inverted forms), and zero or more additional names. The terminology in
the RA's Change Summary document is incorrect; there is no such thing as
an "additional reference name." A reference name could be changed, or a
different name from among the pool might become the reference name, but
then it is not "additional."

> Also, I just realised this may be a grammatical misunderstanding; when
> you said that "Inuinnaqtun" was added as _the_ reference name, I
> presumed that this meant that the first name in the list was special
> and that other names are synonyms, slightly less than equal to the
> first one which is "the reference name" for a given language.

The first Description field in a language subtag record is special. It
corresponds to the one and only 639-3 reference name for that code
element (§3.1.5). Subsequent Description fields correspond to
additional names assigned by the RA, or are assigned by the Reviewer
(as, for example, when we registered both "N'Ko" using U+0027 and
"N’Ko" using U+2019).

The order of the additional Description fields is not critical, and is
not specified in BCP 47, and probably doesn't matter to anyone really,
but I try to make it match the order in which the non-reference names
appear in the 639-3 Language Names Index file. Converting this
automatically is going to pose a bit of a problem for me in the future,
because the RA changed the format of the Names Index file in June and,
in the process, reordered some of the names (for no discernible reason).
I have a tool that takes 639-3 data and automatically generates the
relevant parts of the Registry, to help me build new records when the RA
approves 180 changes at a time. Since we don't want to go through the
hassle of reordering Description fields in perfectly good Registry
records, I'll need to modify my tool to take this reordering into

> But since the change requests summary says that asterisks indicate
> addition "as an additional reference name", I presume that all of the
> names labelled "Description" in the subtag registry are "reference
> names" in the ISO sense. So perhaps "...adding "Inuinnaqtun" as a
> reference name..." would be better (adding it as _a_ reference name
> rather than as _the_ reference name).
> Though where in the order it gets added depends on whether the list of
> names has an order and if so, which. (Alphabet? Some sort of priority
> of aptness, with the first being somehow "best" and the others
> synonyms in decreasing order of "goodness"? Chronological order of
> addition to the registry entry?)

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | @DougEwell ­

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