How to add 2 letter language code in ISO 639-1

John Cowan cowan at
Tue Feb 28 18:21:28 CET 2017

On Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 10:37 AM, Doug Ewell <doug at> wrote:

According to the ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [1]:
> "A language code already in ISO 639-2 at the point of freezing ISO 639-1
> shall not later be added to ISO 639-1. This is to ensure consistency in
> usage over time, since users are directed in Internet applications to
> employ the alpha-3 code when an alpha-2 code for that language is not
> available."

As I read it, it is still possible for an ISO 639-3 language to be added
simultaneously to 639-2 with the same code and to 639-1 with a novel
2-alpha code if it met the other requirements.  However, the chance of an
existing language becoming a major language in the sense of 639-1 is nearly
zero in the short term, though perfectly possible in the long term.

John Cowan        cowan at
"Make a case, man; you're full of naked assertions, just like Nietzsche."
"Oh, i suffer from that, too.  But you know, naked assertions or GTFO."
                        --heard on #scheme, sorta
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