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|Standard||Name (Codes for the representation of names of languages – ...)||Registration Authority||First edition||Current||No. in list|
|"ISO 639-1||Part 1: Alpha-2 code||"Infoterm||1967 (as ISO 639)||2002||"184|
|"ISO 639-2||Part 2: Alpha-3 code||"Library of Congress||1998||1998||"565 as of October 2015|
|"ISO 639-3||Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages||"SIL International||2007||2007||"7865 + local range as of October 2015|
|"ISO 639-4||Part 4: Implementation guidelines and general principles for language coding||ISO/TC 37/SC 2||2010-07-16||2010-07-16||(not a list)|
|"ISO 639-5||Part 5: Alpha-3 code for language families and groups||Library of Congress||2008-05-15||2008-05-15||"114|
|"ISO 639-6 (withdrawn)||Part 6: Alpha-4 representation for comprehensive coverage of language variants||Geolang||2009-11-17||withdrawn||21,000+|
Each part of the standard is maintained by a maintenance agency, which adds codes and changes the status of codes when needed. ISO 639-6 was withdrawn in 2014.
Types (for individual languages):
Bibliographic and terminology codes
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The different parts of ISO 639 are designed to work together, in such a way that no code means one thing in one part and something else in another. However, not all languages are in all parts, and there is a variety of different ways that specific languages and other elements are treated in the different parts. This depends, for example, whether a language is listed in parts 1 or 2, whether it has separate B/T codes in part 2, or is classified as a macrolanguage in part 3, and so forth.
These various treatments are detailed in the following chart. The first four columns contain codes for a representative language that exemplifies a specific type of relation between the parts of ISO 639. The last column provides an explanation of the relationship, and the "#" column indicates the number of elements that have that type of relationship. For example, there are four elements that have a code in part 1, have a B/T code, and are classified as macrolanguages in part 3. One representative of these four elements is "Persian" [fas].
|ISO 639-1||ISO 639-2||ISO 639-3||ISO 639-5||#||Description of example|
|en||eng||eng||(-)||132||Languages with one code in each part. (There 185 in Part 1, subtract all special cases for Part 1 codes, 185-2-25-17-4-2-1-1-1=132)|
|nb||nob||nob||(-)||2||An individual language that belongs to macrolanguage (nor), with same code in Part 2 and also has a code in Part 1. The two codes are: nob, non|
|ar||ara||ara (M)||(-)||25||"Part 3 macro, 55 macrolanguages total, subtract special cases, 55-24-4-1-1=25|
|de||ger/deu (B/T)||deu||(-)||15||Elements that have separate B and T codes in part 2, but not in any of the special cases in succeeding lines. 22 total, subtract special cases, 22-1-4-2=15.|
|cs||cze/ces (B/T)||ces||(-)||1||An element with separate B/T codes and the letters from the Part 1 code are not the first two letters of the T code.|
|fa||per/fas (B/T)||fas (M)||(-)||4||Macrolanguages in part 3 with separate B/T codes in part 2; the four T codes are: fas, msa, sqi, zho|
|hr||scr/hrv (B/T)||hrv||(-)||2||Languages with separate B/T codes in part 2, but the B code is deprecated. The two T codes are: hrv, srp. Deprecated 2008-06-28.|
|no ("M")||nor ("M")||nor (M)||(-)||1||Macrolanguages in part 3 which contain languages that have codes in Part 1, nor: non, nob; no: nn, nb|
|bh||bih||(-)||?||1||Bihari (bih) is marked as collective despite having an ISO 639-1 code which should only be for individual languages. The reason is that some individual "Bihari languages received an ISO 639-2 code, which makes Bihari a language family for the purposes of ISO 639-2, but a single language for the purposes of ISO 639-1. The single languages are: bho, mai, mag|
|sh||(-)||hbs (M)||(-)||1||Macrolanguage in part 3, no part 2 code, part 1 code deprecated|
|(bh)||bho||bho||(-)||3||Classified as individual languages in parts 2 & 3, do not belong to a macrolanguage, but in part 1 are covered by a code whose equivalent in part 2 is a collective. The three codes are: bho, mai, mag|
|(bh)||(bih)||sck||(-)||An individual language in part 3, no code in Part 2, does not belong to a macrolanguage, but in Part 1 is covered by a code whose equivalent in Part 2 is a collective.|
|(-)||car||car||car||An individual language in parts 2 & 3, but also included in Part 5 as a family|
|(-)||ast||ast||(-)||An individual language in parts 2 & 3, no code in Part 1.|
|(-)||bal||bal (M)||(-)||24||An individual language in Part 2 and macrolanguage in Part 3, no code in Part 1.|
|(-)||mis||mis||?||1||special code: available to be used in a context where a code is required, but the language has no code|
|(-)||mul||mul||?||1||special code: multilingual content|
|(-)||und||und||?||1||special code: undetermined|
|(-)||zxx||zxx||?||1||special code: no linguistic information (added 2006-01-11)|
|(-)||qaa||qaa||?||520||reserved for local use, range is qaa ... qtz|
|(-)||aus||(-)||aus||regular group in Part 2|
|(-)||afa||(-)||afa||In Part 2 a rest group, i.e. same code but different languages included. In Part 2 "afa" refers to an Afro-Asiatic language that does not have an individual-language identifier in Part 2, and that does not fall into the rest groups "ber - Berber (Other)", "cus - Cushitic (Other)", or "sem - Semitic (Other)", all of which are Afro-Asiatic language groups.|
|(ar)||(ara "M")||arb||(-)||An individual language, belongs to a macrolanguage (ara) in part 3, covered by the macrolanguage code in Part 2, also covered in Part 1.|
|(-)||(nic "R")||aaa||(-)||No code in part 1, in Part 2 best covered by a rest group, "Niger-Kodofanian (Other)"|
|(-)||(-)||(-)||sqj||Languages not coded in parts 1 & 2|
These differences are due to the following factors:
qtzare reserved for local use.
misfor languages that have no code yet assigned,
mulfor "multiple languages",
undfor "undefined", and
zxxfor "no linguistic content, not applicable".
engcorresponds to Part 2
engand Part 1
astcorresponds to Part 2
astbut lacks a code in Part 1.
ausin Part 2 and Part 5, which stands for "Australian languages.
"Alpha-2" codes (for codes composed of 2 letters of the "ISO basic Latin alphabet) are used in "ISO 639-1. When codes for a wider range of languages were desired, more than 2 letter combinations could cover (a maximum of 262 = 676), "ISO 639-2 was developed using Alpha-3 codes (though the latter was formally published first).["citation needed]
"Alpha-3" codes (for codes composed of 3 letters of the "ISO basic Latin alphabet) are used in "ISO 639-2, "ISO 639-3, and "ISO 639-5. The number of languages and language groups that can be so represented is 263 = 17,576.
The common use of Alpha-3 codes by three parts of ISO 639 requires some coordination within a larger system.
Part 2 defines four special codes
zxx, a reserved range
qaa-qtz (20 × 26 = 520 codes) and has 23 double entries (the B/T codes). This sums up to 520 + 23 + 4 = 547 codes that cannot be used in part 3 to represent languages or in part 5 to represent language families or groups. The remainder is 17,576 – 547 = 17,029.
There are somewhere around six or seven thousand languages on Earth today. So those 17,029 codes are adequate to assign a unique code to each language, although some languages may end up with arbitrary codes that sound nothing like the traditional name(s) of that language.
"Alpha-4" codes (for codes composed of 4 letters of the "ISO basic Latin alphabet) were proposed to be used in "ISO 639-6, which has been withdrawn. The upper limit for the number of languages and dialects that can be represented is 264 = 456,976.