Dear Colleagues,


we will have to deal with the official request of ISO/TC 46 concerning 2- and 3-letter symbols for 11 languages. Before starting the process I would like to suggest that we clarify 2 issues:


(1) concerning ISO 639-1:2002 clause A.3.4 “Reservation of identifiers":

"When a request for inclusion of a new entity has been rejected, ISO 639-1/RA may reserve the requested identifier for the use of the applicant and others possible users. ISO 639-1 will keep a record of such reservations and will inform the ISO 639-2/RA of such."

In this connection I would like to ask

a) Håvard whether he has a record on such reservations (because such cases were long in the past),

b) all of you, whether we have considered this clause in our discussions after the problem with the reuse of an outdated country symbol to another country by ISO 3166/MA – in fact, whether this clause is still necessary or will need rewording in future ISO 639.


(2) concerning the assignment of language symbols based on mnemotechnic principles (whether based on the English name of a language or the original name of it):

In this connection I would like to ask you to consider a slight modification of the rules – or rather our practice to apply the rules –:

a) we will run for sure into more problematic cases the more language names are coded, and our argument that the language symbol is merely a code and not an abbreviation is weak.

(in this connection the alignment with country names is probably not really helpful either)

b) our colleague Marion Kresse suggested to select new language symbols from a table showing available letter combinations (as we do) – but choosing the second and/or third letter in such a way that they do not look too much like an abbreviation of the language name in question. In several cases we had to do this anyhow – either due to the lack of letter combinations to choose for the language symbol or because of two or more different languages had similar names.

c) we had internally agreed to reserve as much as possible the letters x, y and z for difficult cases in the future (see for instance airport codes, such as YMX for Montreal International or YND for Ottawa or XRH for Richmond in AUS /=Australia, not AUT=Austria/ - similar problems in different coding systems)


Best regards




-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Gérard Lang-Marconnet [
mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 26.
Juni 2013 12:10
An: Galinski Christian; Zagas John; ISO639-3 Melinda; Constable Peter; Drude Sebastian; Kresse Maren; Hakala Juha; Porteneuve Elisabeth; Demay François; Patton Glenn; Le Feuvre Pierrick; Lang Gérard; Ferres Mercé; Pelaprat Mary-Lou; Warburton Kara; Warburton Kara 2; Pelle Françoise
Betreff: Request from the ISO/TC 46 to the ISO 639/RA-JAC for the creation of 11 alpha-2 ISO 639-1 code elements concerning the name of administrative languages


Dear All,

In my capacity of liaison officer from ISO/TC 46 to ISO/TC 37, let me inform you that during the plenary session of its 2013 annual meeting in Paris, ISO/TC 46 (Information and Documentation) adopted on Friday 2013-06-07 the following resolution 2013-01:

ISO/TC 46 asks the Joint Advisory Committee on Registration authorities for ISO 639 "Codes for the representation of names of languages" to consider attributing alpha-2 code elements for the languages listed in Document N490, that are administrative languages for ISO 3166-1 countries and need to be referenced to in ISO 3166 "Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions".


The corresponding list of the 11 alpha-2 ISO 639-1 requested code elements, as proposed by the ISO 3166/MA, follows. Each line gives the proposed/requested alpha-2 code element, the name of the language to be represented (in english and in french), the corresponding alpha-3 ISO 639-2 (or ISO 639-3, if necessary, followed by *) corresponding code element and (the list of) the alpha-2 ISO 3166-1 code element(s) representing the interessed country.


1/ cm; Shikomor/ comorien; ---; KM;

2/ gi; Gilbertese/ kiribati; gil; KI

3/ me; Montenegrin /monténegrin;---; ,ME; 4/ ni; Niuean/ niué; niu; NU; 5/ ns; Soto, Northern/ sotho du nord; nso; ZA; (Remark: among the 11administrative languages of South Afrika, whose names all have an alpha-3 ISO 639-2 code element this is the only one case 

                                                                              not to have an alpha-2 ISO 639-1 code element) 6/ pp; Papiamento/ papiamento; pap; BQ, CW; 7/ pw; Paluan/ palau; pau; PW; 8/ sy; Seselwa Creole French/ seychellois; crs*; SC;

9: tm; Tetum/ tetum; tet; TL;

10/ tp; Tok pisin/ tok pisin; tpi; PG;

11: tv; Tuvalu/ tuvalu; tvl; TV



In the case that some of these 11 requested code elements would not be accepted, ISO/TC 46 would, as I explained at the ISO 639/RA-JAC meeting in Paris on 2013-06-04, ask for the application of the normative clause" A.3.4 Reservation of identifiers" of ISO 639-1:2002 (further consolidated in clause A.5 of ISO 639-4:2010), that writes;

"When a request for inclusion of a new entity has been rejected, ISO 639-1/RA may reserve the requested identifier for the use of the applicant and others possible users. ISO 639-1 will keep a record of such reservations and will inform the ISO 639-2/RA of such.",

so as to be able to use all 11 requested code elements for ISO 3166.


We would like the ISO 639/RA-JAC to consider these requests as soon as possible, because the votes on the three parts of the new edition 2013 of ISO 3166 closed very recently on 2013-06-19 with positive results (for example ISO 3166-1:2013 was unanimously approved, with 29 yes and 6 abstentions on 35 voting P-members), so that it would be nice to be able to insert the requested code elements in the publication of the new edition of ISO 3166.


Bien amicalement.

Gérard Lang=