ISO 639-3 rejection of "Kaikavian"

Doug Ewell doug at
Thu Feb 6 22:39:25 CET 2014

We had a lengthy discussion about South Slavic languages/dialects last
November. One of the points of discussion was whether ISO 639-3/RA
should assign code elements to these on a genetic basis, and whether
that would be compatible with the existing breakdown, roughly along
national lines.

Here is the RA's response in rejecting a request this year for Kaikavian
(their spelling). The source document is at

"The request to create the code [hkj] Kaikavian is rejected. The
Registration Authority notes that the request has merit, that there seem
to be parts of the Kaikavian language continuum that are not
intelligible with the Shtokavian variety which is the basis for
Croatian. But there is no way to recognize this language within the
current constraints of the standard. Part 2 of the standard has chosen
to recognize the languages of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian, based on
national boundaries rather than linguistic factors. Taken together,
these form the macrolanguage Serbo-Croatian [hbs]. There is no way to
recognize [hkj] Kaikavian as a new code within the current macrolanguage
system since it would involve splitting what is currently represented by
[hrv] Croatian and this would in turn invalidate the use of that code
to-date in library catalogs. Recognizing the language as being outside
the Serbo-Croatian macrolanguage does not solve the problem since the
current use of [hrv] is still invalidated. So the request as currently
presented is rejected.

"The Registration Authority notes that the above decision puts the
precedent of established usage in ISO 639-2 above the linguistic factors
of intelligibility which usually inform the decision of the ISO 639-3
RA. Within the overall framework of the ISO 639 family of standards,
this issue must first be resolved in Part 2 before it can be taken up in
Part 3."

Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, USA | @DougEwell ­

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