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member (the present member list is outdated), and hereafter (2) approaching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.
> Melinda
> 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
>>> Secretary,
>>> Joint Advisory Committee
>>> <Survey on ISO639(v2).doc>