request for subtag for Elfdalian

Peter Constable petercon at
Tue Nov 18 06:18:33 CET 2014

Maintenance of the code tables for ISO 639-3, including addition of entries, does not involve ISO national body voting processes. That would not be a particularly effective or efficient way to maintain the code tables.

This particular case, though, has a particular story involving national body votes.

The initial working draft code tables for ISO 639-3 were derived in large part from the 15th edition of Ethnologue, which included an entry for “Dalecarlian”. See here:

So, the initial drafts of ISO 639-3 did include this.

Now, in the ISO voting process on ISO 639-3, there were very few national bodies that requested changes in the code tables. One of the very few national body comments, however, came from Sweden. Here is the relevant information from the enquiry ballot disposition of comments:

General comments:
We disapprove for for [sic] the following technical reason:

We do not find the practice of treating dialects as distinct languages in this draft acceptable. As an
example we can name three Swedish dialects: Dalecarlian, Jamtska and Scanian which are treated
as languages in the draft. We suggest that the distinction between languages and dialects should
be brought out more fully in the draft. We also propose to leave out the codes for the above
dialects from the list of Alpha-3 codes. Acceptance of the specified modifications will change our
vote to approval.

Disposition: accepted
The current draft discusses dialects in 4.2.3. In that section, it observes that the intent is not to
include entries for dialects in part 3, but also that different users may have different perceptions
about what distinctions are considered dialect versus language distinctions. It also observes the
various senses of the English lexeme “dialect”, which for some English speakers means a substandard
variety. It is not clear what further explanation is desired. The intent of the comment
appears to be focused on the inclusion of Dalecarlian, Jamtska and Scanian rather than the text
per se.

It is accepted that Dalecarlian, Jamtska and Scanian will be removed from the draft code table.
The re-introduction of these or other entries can be considered by the ISO 639-RA/JAC in the
course of on-going maintenance.

Note: On the basis of this disposition, Sweden changes their vote to Yes.


From: Ietf-languages [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of Mats Blakstad
Sent: Monday, November 17, 2014 2:33 PM
To: ietf-languages at
Subject: Re: request for subtag for Elfdalian

Can you explain briefly the process of making new ISO639-3 codes? Who makes the decisions? Can a language get the ISO639-3 code without the aproval of the government in their country?

2014-11-17 22:23 GMT+01:00 Registrar ISO639-3 <iso639-3 at<mailto:iso639-3 at>>:
Dear IETF community,
I have not received any request to create a code for Elfdalian. Because of the history of ISO 639-3, many dialect vs. language decisions were not settled prior to the codeset being established. When there is a lot of disagreement among local linguists, the situation remains as is, rather than having codes created.
I am glad that Mr. Blakstad has made this request, which will help to provide a way to identify Elfdalian.
Melinda Lyons
ISO 639-3 RA
SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
Dallas, TX 75236

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