ISO 639-3 2011 changes: ikt

Doug Ewell doug at
Thu Aug 9 07:19:06 CEST 2012

Philip Newton wrote:

>> 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).
> Does this mean that ISO 639 changed the reference name for "ikt" from
> "Western Canadian Inuktitut" to "Inuinnaqtun", in the process
> relegating the original reference name "Western Canadian Inuktitut" to
> an additional name?
> Because that is what the proposed language subtag record seems to
> imply, yet that isn't what I understood the change to be.

I suppose you are looking at the passage in the ISO change request form 
(2011-168.pdf) where the requester asked:

"The Linguist List states that Inuinnaqtun is French for Inuktitut, 
Western Canadian. Since the Government of Nunavut refers to Inukitut, 
Western Canadian as the language name, should the language reference 
name also be known as Inuinnaqtun?"

This does imply that the requester felt there could be two Reference 
Names, one in English and one in French. However, by definition there is 
only one Reference Name for a given ISO 639-3 code element, the one that 
appears in the Code Set data file:

ikt    A    SIL    ikt                    Inuinnaqtun    I    L    SIL

Other names appear in the Names Index data file, alongside the Reference 

ikt    A    SIL    ikt                    Western Canadian Inuktitut 
I    L    SIL
ikt    A    SIL    ikt                    Inuktitut, Western Canadian 
I    L    SIL
ikt    A    SIL    ikt                    Inuinnaqtun    I    L    SIL

The RA says, "The Reference Name is employed for ease of use of the code 
set, and does not imply it is to be preferred in any application to any 
other name that may be associated with the particular code element as 
given in the Language Names Index." And from the standpoint of the IANA 
Language Subtag Registry, the 639-3 Reference Name doesn't carry any 
significance except for being the first Description field for that 
record. It is not necessarily "preferred" in any way for BCP 47 usage. 
Description fields are non-normative in any case.

So even though the ISO 639-3 request did have the effect of changing the 
Reference Name rather than adding a second one, which the requester 
probably intended but which is not within the rules of 639-3, it has 
little or no effect on the usability of the original name within BCP 47, 
or for that matter, within 639-3.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | @DougEwell ­ 

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