Dear JAC members and alternates,

In my hurry to get the survey sent out before an overseas trip, I missed including the ISOJAC list on the list of recipients. Please forgive me.

If you want to give input to the committee looking at the future of ISO 639, please go to the site listed below and fill in the survey.

        - Melinda Lyons (JAC Secretary)

Dear Recipient,

You have been nominated to participate in a survey being conducted under the auspices of ISO Technical Committee 37, Sub-committee 2 (TC37/SC2), which maintains the ISO 639 standards for language coding, in relation to possible revision of the ISO 639 standards.

The ISO 639 family of standards was developed in multiple parts at different times and in response to different perceived needs:

- ISO 639-1 derives from ISO work first done some decades ago to code primarily the most major languages.
- ISO 639-2 was developed in the late 1990s to provide more expanded language coverage, particularly for the needs of libraries and documentation.
- ISO 639-3 was developed in the 2000s to provide comprehensive coverage of languages for use in a broad range of applications, such as the Internet or in general linguistic research.
- ISO 639-5 was developed in the 2000s to provide coding of language groupings and collections. 
- ISO 639-6 was developed to provide coding of language variants.
- ISO 639-4 was developed to provide a general framework covering all parts of ISO 639, along with guidelines on language description.

Parts 1, 2 and 3 are the most widely used parts of ISO 639, sometimes separately, and sometimes in combination. While the parts were created at different times with slightly different objectives, the different parts impact one another. For that reason, the language code tables for parts 1, 2, 3 and 5 are necessarily maintained as a coherent and unified set of coded concepts. To date, each has had a different Registration Authority to administer that portion of the code set, though a Joint Advisory Committee was established to provide oversight and coordination among the different Registration Authorities.

The Registration Authorities for the various parts of ISO 639 are:

- InfoTerm (Part 1)
- Library of Congress (Parts 2 and 5)
- SIL International (Part 3)
- GeoLang (Part 6)

The Joint Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from the Registration Authorities plus representatives appointed by ISO TC 37 and ISO TC 46, per the specifications given in the various parts of ISO 639.

In view of the close inter-relationship between the parts of ISO 639 and the need for coordinated maintenance, TC37/SC2 has recently begun to consider whether the ISO 639 standards should be revised into a single, unified standard, possibly with a single Registration Authority or other maintenance body (yet to be determined). TC37/SC2 is aware that the ISO 639 standards are among the most widely-used of ISO standards, and that a major revision of this nature could have significant impact for a wide range of users and applications.

With that consideration in mind, an ad-hoc working group has been charged to solicit input from users and key stakeholders of the ISO 639 standards regarding requirements, concerns or suggestions in relation to such a possible revision. TC37/SC2 is concerned that any changes to the status quo serve to solve existing problems rather than to create new ones. Your input in this process is greatly appreciated.

Yours truly,

Melinda Lyons and Bill Rivers, on behalf of the Ad-hoc Working Group for the Revision of ISO 639

You may complete the survey here: you have questions, please email Melinda Lyons at [log in to unmask].