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ISO 639-2:1998, Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 2: Alpha-3 code, is the second part of the ISO 639 standard, which lists codes for the representation of the names of languages. The three-letter codes given for each language in this part of the standard are referred to as "Alpha-3" codes. There are 464 entries in the list of ISO 639-2 codes.

The U.S. Library of Congress is the registration authority for ISO 639-2 (referred to as ISO 639-2/RA). As registration authority, the LOC receives and reviews proposed changes; they also have representation on the ISO 639-RA Joint Advisory Committee responsible for maintaining the ISO 639 code tables.

Work was begun on the ISO 639-2 standard in 1989, due to the fact that the ISO 639-1 standard, which gives two-letter codes for languages, would not be able to accommodate a sufficient number of languages. The ISO 639-2 standard was first released in 1998.

B and T codes

While most languages are given one code by the standard, twenty of the languages described have two three-letter codes, a "bibliographic" code (ISO 639-2/B), which is derived from the English name for the language and was a necessary legacy feature, and a "terminological" code (ISO 639-2/T), which is derived from the native name for the language. Each of these twenty languages is also included in the ISO 639-1 standard. (There were 22 B codes; scc and scr are now deprecated.)

In general the T codes are favored; ISO 639-3 uses ISO 639-2/T. However, ISO 15924 derives its codes when possible from ISO 639-2/B.

Scopes and types


  • Individual languages
  • Macrolanguages
  • Collections of languages
  • Dialects
  • Reserved for local use
  • Special situations

Types (for individual languages):

  • Living languages
  • Extinct languages
  • Ancient languages
  • Historic languages
  • Constructed languages

Special situations

There are codes for special situations:

  • mis is listed as "uncoded languages"
  • mul (for multiple languages) is applied when several languages are used and it is not practical to specify all the appropriate language codes
  • The interval from qaa to qtz is reserved and is not used in the standard
  • und (for undetermined) is used in situations in which a language or languages must be indicated but the language cannot be identified.
  • zxx is listed in the code list as "no linguistic content" (added 2006-01-11)

Collective language codes

Some ISO 639-2 codes that are commonly used for languages do not precisely represent a particular language or some related languages (as the above macrolanguages). They are regarded as collective language codes and are excluded from ISO 639-3. For a definition of macrolanguages and collective languages see [1].

The collective language codes in ISO 639-2 are listed below.

The following two codes are not (yet) identified as collective codes in ISO 639-2 (and ISO 639-5), but are identified as such by the ISO 639-3 registry:

Codes registered for 639-2 that are listed as collective codes in ISO 639-5 (and collective codes by name in ISO 639-2):

Special codes in ISO 639-2:

  • und undetermined (language)
  • mis uncoded language
  • mul multiple languages
  • zxx no linguistic content, not applicable

See also

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External links

als:ISO 639-2 ar:آيسو 639-2 br:ISO 639-2 cs:ISO 639-2 da:ISO 639-2 el:ISO 639-2 es:ISO 639-2 ext:ISO 639-2 eu:ISO 639-2 fr:ISO 639-2 it:ISO 639-2 jv:ISO 639-2 lv:ISO 639-2 mk:ISO 639-2 ms:ISO 639-2 scn:ISO 639-2 ta:ஐ.எசு.ஓ 639-2 th:ISO 639-2 ug:ISO 639-2 yo:ISO 639-2 zh:ISO 639-2