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

Peter Constable petercon at
Tue Feb 28 22:15:44 CET 2017

Please, don’t bother!

If the RA does respond, then at worst they’ll say that the 639-1 code set is frozen. If you’re “lucky” (I’ll qualify that), they may say that Chakma doesn’t satisfy the minimal criteria. If you manage to get beyond that point (very unlikely, IMO), then it will have to get punted to the ISO 639-RA/JAC where I can predict with certainty that there will be lots of push back against adding any new alpha-2 identifiers.

Saroj, the important point is that there really is no need today for new language identifiers to be added to ISO 639-1, and that the alpha-2 code set must really be viewed as frozen legacy since it is too constrained to support the set of languages in use on the Web today.


From: Ietf-languages [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at] On Behalf Of John Cowan
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 4:49 AM
To: Saroj <sarojchakma20 at>
Cc: Ietf-languages at
Subject: Re: How to add 2 letter language code in ISO 639-1

On Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 5:02 AM, Saroj <sarojchakma20 at<mailto:sarojchakma20 at>> wrote:

Hi, I want to know how to add Chakma Language in two letter code. We have 3 letter code in ISO 639-3 as ccp.

The contact details for the ISO 639-1 Registration Authority are:

Austrian Standards Institute
Österreichisches Normungsinstitut
Heinestrasse 38
A-1020 Wien

Tel: +43 1 213 00 610 / +43 1 213 00 613
Fax: +43 1 213 00 609
E-mail: ceo at<mailto:ceo at>

However, it is very unlikely that Chakma will receive a 2-letter code.  The text of ISO 639-1 states:

The alpha-2 code was de­vised for practical use for most of the major languages of the world that are not only most frequently repre­sented in the total body of the world’s literature, but which also comprise a considerable volume of spe­cialized languages and terminologies.

While there are some languages on the ISO 639-1 list that clearly don't qualify by this standard (e.g. Navajo 'nv'), it's unlikely that the Registration Authority will add any more.  Furthermore, the Registration Authority as a matter of policy doesn't register any new 2-letter codes for languages that already have 3-letter codes.  So in practice the 2-letter codes are a closed list.

In the modern era of language tagging, 2-letter codes are anachronistic, but we are stuck with them because they are already so widely used.   Adding more of them serves no one well.

John Cowan        cowan at<mailto:cowan at>
The first thing you learn in a lawin' family is that there ain't
no definite answers to anything.  --Calpurnia in To Kill A Mockingbird

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