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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Find a language
Enter an ISO 639-2 code to find the corresponding language article

ISO 639-2:1998, Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 2: Alpha-3 code, is the second part of the ISO 639 standard, which lists codes for the representation of the names of languages. The three-letter codes given for each language in this part of the standard are referred to as "Alpha-3" codes. There are 487 entries in the list of ISO 639-2 codes.

The US Library of Congress is the registration authority for ISO 639-2 (referred to as ISO 639-2/RA). As registration authority, the LOC receives and reviews proposed changes; they also have representation on the ISO 639-RA Joint Advisory Committee responsible for maintaining the ISO 639 code tables.

History and relationship to other ISO 639 standards

Work was begun on the ISO 639-2 standard in 1989, because the ISO 639-1 standard, which uses only two-letter codes for languages, is not able to accommodate a sufficient number of languages. The ISO 639-2 standard was first released in 1998.

In practice, ISO 639-2 has largely been superseded by ISO 639-3 (2007), which includes codes for all the individual languages in ISO 639-2 plus many more. It also includes the special and reserved codes, and is designed not to conflict with ISO 639-2. ISO 639-3, however, does not include any of the collective languages in ISO 639-2; most of these are included in ISO 639-5.

B and T codes

While most languages are given one code by the standard, twenty of the languages described have two three-letter codes, a "bibliographic" code (ISO 639-2/B), which is derived from the English name for the language and was a necessary legacy feature, and a "terminological" code (ISO 639-2/T), which is derived from the native name for the language and resembles the language's two-letter code in ISO 639-1. There were originally 22 B codes; scc and scr are now deprecated.

In general the T codes are favored; ISO 639-3 uses ISO 639-2/T.

Scopes and types

The codes in ISO 639-2 have a variety of "scopes of denotation", or types of meaning and use, some of which are described in more detail below.

For a definition of macrolanguages and collective languages, see ISO 639-3/RA: Scope of denotation for language identifiers.

Individual languages are further classified as to type:

  • Living languages
  • Extinct languages
  • Ancient languages
  • Historic languages
  • Constructed languages

Collections of languages

Some ISO 639-2 codes that are commonly used for languages do not precisely represent a particular language or some related languages (as the above macrolanguages). They are regarded as collective language codes and are excluded from ISO 639-3.

The collective language codes in ISO 639-2 are listed below.

The following code is identified as a collective code in ISO 639-2 but is (at present) missing from ISO 639-5:

Codes registered for 639-2 that are listed as collective codes in ISO 639-5 (and collective codes by name in ISO 639-2):

Reserved for local use

The interval from qaa to qtz is "reserved for local use" and is not used in ISO 639-2 nor in ISO 639-3. These codes are typically used privately for languages not (yet) in either standard.

Special situations

There are four generic codes for special situations:

  • mis is listed as "uncoded languages" (originally an abbreviation for "miscellaneous")
  • mul (for "multiple languages") is applied when several languages are used and it is not practical to specify all the appropriate language codes
  • und (for "undetermined") is used in situations in which a language or languages must be indicated but the language cannot be identified.
  • zxx is listed in the code list as "no linguistic content", e.g. animal sounds (code added on 11 January 2006)

These four codes are also used in ISO 639-3.

See also

External links


This page was last edited on 21 April 2020, at 18:40
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