proposed ISO 639 change for "arn"

Peter Constable petercon at
Mon Dec 10 18:07:44 CET 2012

A proposal has been made to the ISO 639-RA/JAC to make changes for Mapudungun. This is currently coded as "arn". The problem is that that ID was derived from an exonym that is considered offensive by some/all of the language community.

"arn" has been coded in 639-2 since its inception in 1998, and was used in MARC before that. What has brought this issue up at this time is, IIUC, that members of the language community want to start creating Wikipedia content and, since Wikipedia uses ISO 639 IDs in domain names, that would entail using "arn" in the domain name for all such content.

Two proposals have been floated. Both involve creating a new ID for Mapudungun (let's call it "mxx"); they differ in their treatment of "arn".

-          Change the scope of "arn" to macrolanguage, encompassing Mapudungun (mxx) and Huilliche (huh)

-          Change the scope of "arn" to language group (it would get added to ISO 639-5 as a result, and technically should be removed from ISO 639-3 as out of scope)

There's no formal action being taken yet in the JAC; this has just come up. But one voting member and one observer are suggesting swift action. (I'm definitely not in favour of any swift action in this case.)

I'm curious to know what people here think about this case?


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