Some additional comments:

“9. I  _____ do  or  _____ do not favor a change in the current 6-part ISO 639 standard. Why or why not?”

This is worded vaguely. Is it asking about the 6-part organization of the standard? If so, that’s not obvious, and it duplicates question 12. Or is it asking about any changes in any part of the standard? If it’s the latter, why would the choice be binary? (E.g. perhaps the respondent would like to see a certain change in one particular part of the standard: how do they answer this?) And if the latter, asking “Why or why not?” doesn’t make sense.

“10. If ISO 639 is unified into a single standard, I would like to suggest these changes:”

This is a rather broad question without much context. The doc mentions briefly at the outset consolidation into a single standard. But it doesn’t provide any background as to why that would be considered. It also mentions the possibility of a single RA; but again, it doesn’t mention why that might be under consideration, nor does it say anything about what organizations might be considered as that RA or request any input on that consideration. It just asks for suggested changes generally. If we really want an open-ended question, then leave out the conditional clause; but if the intent is to ask specifically about how a unified standard should be crafted, then the question needs to be made clearer and more specific.


From: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Peter Constable
Sent: August 5, 2013 11:00 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: draft survey on ISO 639

I have some comments on the doc:

"Parts 1, 2 and 3 are widely used, for different purposes and in different communities."

It's true that parts 1, 2 and 3 are widely used. However, I think that the second comment, that they are used by different communities for different purposes, does not really give an accurate impression of usage patterns.

Applications that use part 1 and only part 1 are likely to be older applications and/or applications with narrower scope of usage.

Part 2 is widely used apart from parts 1 or 3 in the context of MARC. This is a broadly-used application. But there are probably not too many other applications with broad usage that use part 2 exclusively.

Part 3 is used exclusive of parts 1 or 2 in certain specialized databases, notably Ethnologue and Linguist List (IIUC). But I suspect there are not many applications with broad usage using only part 3.

What the statement doesn't allow for is that the most widely used applications for any parts of ISO 639 today are Internet and Web specifications that reference IETF specification BCP 47 and, therefore, use all three parts of ISO 639 in combination.

"Part 1 is 2-letter codes for national languages."

That is a quite erroneous statement. The text of part 1 does not in any way suggest this. What it _does_ state is this:

"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."

Even that statement needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It has encoded several languages that have no status as official / administrative / national languages of any country (e.g., Breton, Interlingua, Manx, Navajo, Volakük); it encodes languages like Herero, "Quechua" and Volapük, which certainly are not among the most frequently represented in the total body of the world's literature, nor are they often used in specialized terminologies. In some cases, like "Chinese", "Quechua", it has coded a "language" that in fact represents multiple languages or even a family of languages; while in at least one other case -- Akan and Twi -- it has encoded dialects of a single language as two "languages". If we're honest, the repertoire of part 1 is probably best described as a legacy collection of language identities that happened to get compiled together in the mid-1980s, and that may have been considered extensive in scope relative to most applications at that time but has since been long surpassed.

"Part 2 is 3-letter codes for major and groups of languages"

Again, that's not really an accurate characterization. For example, it codes Osage, which is an extinct Siouan language that is neither major nor a group. There are a large number of comparable examples. If we're honest, the best characterization of part 2 is that it codes those categories that are used in MARC.

"12.       I favor unification of the ______ISO 639 Standard, ______Registration Authority, _____ both."

I would reformat this as it is confusing in its current form: the blank before the first two expressions appears as though the respondent is expected to fill in the blank with a descriptor. Also, room should be provided for the respondent to elaborate on their answer. I suggest the following:

12. I favor unification of

              □ ISO 639 (merge parts into a single standard)

              □ the role of registration authority (have one Registration Authority for all parts)




-----Original Message-----
From: ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of ISO639-3
Sent: July 24, 2013 2:48 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: draft survey on ISO 639

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