Thank you for your message.
I have the following comments:
1/ I agree that most (but not all) information useful for ISO 3166 has some international or national official status, so that authoritative sources can be found to provide most of the information.
2/ I am not sure that concepts like "country" or "administrative subdivision" can be considered as less abstract than "language", but certainly limits between them are more easy to find.
3/ When considering that ISO 3166-2 is giving code elements and names in every administrative languages for every category of administrative subdivision of the first (and sometimes the second) level, and for the list of subdivisions of every such category concerning about 200 countries, it is not so evident that the maintenance work of ISO 3166 is less huge that the maintenance of the future ISO 639 could be. And let me add that the "volatility" of the categories and lists of administrative subdivisions of all independant states of the world is high. I must also mention that more than 30 administrative languages are not written with a variant of the latin alphabet, so that we have an important romanization work to do, with the help of the experts from the Group of Experts of the United Nations on Geographic Names (GENUNG)
And when I read the AFNOR standard giving an alpha-5 code for the representation of names of historic countries since 1815 (Congress of Vienna), the case around the "Saint-Empire romain germanique) seems as subtle and volatile as questions about linguistic variants could possibly be.
4/ I do not really understand what is meant by stakeholders, and I would be interested to have some clarification and examples in this direction.
5/ I proposed to include the possibility of creation of an ISO 639 Maintenance Agency because this was advocated by ISO/CS at our meeting in Paris in september 2012, and I think that this is a good solution. This is not only workinfg quite well for ISO 3166, but also for ISO 4217 "Code for the representation of (names of) currencies and funds", that must also make rapid decisions.
In fact, even if I am absolutely not against a "Joint Registration Authority" solution for the future ISO 639, I would like that both solutions be considered in the survey to allow anyone to understand the advantages and differences underlying a decision on this important question.
Le 6 août 2013 à 11:30, Christian Galinski a écrit :
> Dear Melinda,
> Cher Gérard,
> Thank you, Melinda, for starting to move ahead. This survey is really
> In the meantime ISO/TC 37/SC 2 is also doing the follow-ups decided at the
> Pretoria meetings: (1) clarifying the proper status of each TC 37/SC 2G 1
> member (the present member list is outdated), and hereafter (2) approaching
> TC 46 (or is it rather TC 46/SC 4 corresponding to ISO/TC 37/SC 2? - the
> umbrella level of the two is the respective TC, if I am correct)
> The big difference between ISO 3166 Series and ISO 639 Series is:
> (1) ISO 3166 codes within themselves are much more "concrete" and stable (in
> spite of all kinds of changes over the years); there are "authorities"
> watching and tracking those changes; the potential number of entities is
> growing, but so far the entities are much more concrete than those of the
> 639 codes.
> (2) The potential number of entities to be coded in the ISO 639 Series could
> become huge; in addition, the semantic entities represented by the 639 codes
> are much more "volatile" in terms of subtle/radical changes of vocabulary,
> grammar, status etc. Some of these changes are due to academic research
> (e.g. language groups, historic levels etc.), but often also subject to
> specific theories.
> In any case the potential for change in an ever increasing number of
> variations of languages will increase more than linear with the growing
> number of coded language names.
> (3) ISO 639 codes comprise at least 2 major types (e.g. concerning the
> impact on industry, public administration, education etc.):
> (a)ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2 (ISO 639-3 in the long run to be merged into the
> 3-letter code) whose codes are considered to be more "standardized" than
> those of the other 639-parts an need a higher level of control of stability;
> they show a high complexity concerning questions like, what is
> differentiating a language from a language variation? how to deal with
> different types of "official" character of a language, different kinds of
> language names? how to deal with language status? etc. ;
> ... issues, for which we expect input from the communities dealing with
> language documentation.
> (b) ISO 639-5 and ISO 639-6 are collections of "entities" most of which are
> debated in various communities, and where many different "views" have to be
> taken into account - which means that they are not fit for standardization,
> but nevertheless represent highly valuable resources to refer to in
> (4) the stakeholder of the two types mentioned above differ largely!
> If I am wrong please correct.
> The original agreement between ISO/TC 37 and ISO/TC 46 "only" referred to
> the 3-letter code of ISO 639-2 (later including to some extent ISO 639-1)
> and later including ISO 639-3 for scientific and other reasons. The
> decisions to include ISO 639-1, ISO 639-3, ISO 639-5 and ISO 639-6 into the
> framework of (a) the ISO 639 Series and (b) the scope of ISO 639/RAs-JAC was
> taken either by the JAC (and later endorsed by TC 37) or by ISO/TC37/SC 2 to
> be taken care of by JAC - If I recall well. Please correct, if you have more
> precise records..
> To cut a long story short, ISO 639 codings are not fit for being subject to
> a maintenance agency (MA) for a number of reasons - not least the ISO rules.
> That is why several JAC members and ISO/TC 37/SC 2/WG 1 have discussed and
> preferred a sort of "Joint Registration Authority" .
> Old ISO/R 639 was developed in the 1960s (?) and taken up again in the 1980s
> - since then several RADICAL changes have taken place:
> (1) Globalization (G11N) in the 1990s triggered the need for localization
> (L10N), whose software platforms and content repositories need /stable/
> language codes;
> (2) In the 2000s, the field of "language documentation" emerged with a
> theoretical and methodological basis for "language description" which can
> help to solve problems in language name coding.
> In today's industry the time-honored principle of "quick and dirty"
> standards - believe it or not, this was the rule /not exception/ still in
> the 1990 in technical standardization - does not suffice any longer
> (especially not in the ICT).
> Just think about the beginnings of character coding in the 1990s and the
> highly formalized and differentiated approach of Unicode today!
> To some extent these reflections need to be considered in the survey - your
> draft is indeed very useful.
> Best regards
> -----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
> Von: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Im
> Auftrag von Gérard Lang-Marconnet
> Gesendet: Montag, 5. August 2013 19:20
> An: [log in to unmask]
> Betreff: Re: draft survey on ISO 639
> Dear Melinda,
> Thank you very much.
> Let me add that this ISO 639/MA would have , exactly as this is the case of
> the ISO 3166/MA I m chairing, the task to maintain (create, delete, change,
> reserve every information contained in) the tables of the alpha-2 and
> alpha-3 code elements according to the rules written in the normative text
> of the future standard ISO 639. In my experience this can only rapidly and
> efficiently work if the composition of the Maintenance Agency is not too big
> (at most 10 members) and balanced between every interessed community. So
> that the current composition of the JAC is a perfect model for this, and
> also in the interst of continuity and experience I would recommand nine
> - one representative of the terminologic community (like Infoterm, to begin
> - one representative of the library community (like the Library of Congress,
> to begin with);
> - one representative of the linguistic community (like SIL International ,
> to begin with) ;
> - three representative of TC 37;
> - three representative of TC 46.
> Every member having a substitute.
> Concerning the list of persons to adress the survey, I would think adequate
> that every current and past (even substitute) of the ISO 639/RA-JAC be on
> the list.
> Bien amicalement.
> Gérard Lang
> Le 5 août 2013 à 17:43, Melinda Lyons a écrit :
>> Dear Gerard,
>> Thank you for your input. I will add the option of a single maintenance
> agency as an option for the survey.
>> On 8/3/13 3:50 PM, Gérard Lang-Marconnet wrote:
>>> Dear Melinda,
>>> Thank you for your message.
>>> In my opinion, in the case that the texts of the six standards forming
> the current parts (or maybe only the five first parts) of ISO 639 would be
> united in one single normative text as a revised standard ISO 639, I would
> find wise to create a unique ISO 639 Maintenance Agency (ISO 639/MA) to
> replace the four current ISO 639 Registration Authorities (ISO 639/RAs) and
> the ISO 639/RA-JAC as well. I do not find appropriate to create a single ISO
> 639 Registration Authority (ISO 639/RA) in this occasion.
>>> Bien amicalement.
>>> Gérard Lang
>>> Le 24 juil. 2013 à 23:48, ISO639-3 a écrit :
>>>> Dear Members of the Joint Advisory Committee,
>>>> As many of you know, the TC-37 decided to get input about the possible
> revision of ISO 639 before drafting or proposing a New Work Item. Attached
> is the survey that has been developed to solicit preliminary input. We
> expect to send it to no more than 50 people, to receive input on the current
> standard and processes. If further input is needed, we will formulate a
> questionnaire as a second step, using input from the survey.
>>>> Please read through the questions, and let me know if there is something
> crucial that should be added before I send it out to a selected list. And if
> there are any people that should receive the survey, send the names to Bill
> Rivers, at the address listed.
>>>> Thank you for taking time to read and comment.
>>>> Melinda Lyons
>>>> Joint Advisory Committee
>>>> <Survey on ISO639(v2).doc>