ISO 639-5 reconfirmation ballot (long)

Doug Ewell doug at
Tue Jul 19 00:54:39 CEST 2016

Anthony Aristar wrote:

> First, the number of codes we would need in order to code any possible
> subgrouping hypothesis is very large. I question whether the alpha-3
> code-space is large enough for both languages and subgroups.

There are 26³ = 17576 possible 3-letter codes. The Registry has 8114
primary language subtags (including deprecated ones, which don't go
away), plus another 520 private-use allocations. I don't think we at BCP
47 should contemplate adding a subgrouping mechanism that requires
anywhere near 8942 subtags, actually more than the number of languages.

> Second, we're missing the human factor here. ISO 639-3 is used
> extensively by linguists now. A number of them have personally said to
> me that they don't want to have to look up a code to know whether it
> refers to a subgroup hypothesis or a language.

Then they're in luck, because ISO 639-3 contains no subgroup codes at
all. ISO 639-3 and 639-5 are disjoint sets. It's BCP 47 that employs
both of them.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, US |

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