ISO 639-3:2007, Codes for the representation of names of languages – Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages, is an international standard for language codes in the ISO 639 series. It defines three-letter codes for identifying languages. The standard was published by ISO on 1 February 2007.
ISO 639-3 extends the ISO 639-2 alpha-3 codes with an aim to cover all known natural languages. The extended language coverage was based primarily on the language codes used in the Ethnologue (volumes 10-14) published by SIL International, which is now the registration authority for ISO 639-3. It provides an enumeration of languages as complete as possible, including living and extinct, ancient and constructed, major and minor, written and unwritten. However, it does not include reconstructed languages such as Proto-Indo-European.
ISO 639-3 is intended for use as metadata codes in a wide range of applications. It is widely used in computer and information systems, such as the Internet, in which many languages need to be supported. In archives and other information storage, they are used in cataloging systems, indicating what language a resource is in or about. The codes are also frequently used in the linguistic literature and elsewhere to compensate for the fact that language names may be obscure or ambiguous.
|Find a language|
|Enter an ISO 639-3 code to find the corresponding language article.|
ISO 639-3 includes all languages in ISO 639-1 and all individual languages in ISO 639-2. ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2 focused on major languages, most frequently represented in the total body of the world's literature. Since ISO 639-2 also includes language collections and Part 3 does not, ISO 639-3 is not a superset of ISO 639-2. Where B and T codes exist in ISO 639-2, ISO 639-3 uses the T-codes.
|individual||arb + others|
As of 15 October 2018, the standard contains 7,859 entries. The inventory of languages is based on a number of sources including: the individual languages contained in 639-2, modern languages from the Ethnologue, historic varieties, ancient languages and artificial languages from the Linguist List, as well as languages recommended within the annual public commenting period.
ISO 639-3 is intended to assume distinctions based on criteria that are not entirely subjective. It is not intended to document or provide identifiers for dialects or other sub-language variations. Nevertheless, judgments regarding distinctions between languages may be subjective, particularly in the case of oral language varieties without established literary traditions, usage in education or media, or other factors that contribute to language conventionalization.
Since the code is three-letter alphabetic, one upper bound for the number of languages that can be represented is 26 × 26 × 26 = 17,576. Since ISO 639-2 defines special codes (4), a reserved range (520) and B-only codes (22), 546 codes cannot be used in part 3. Therefore, a stricter upper bound is 17,576 − 546 = 17,030.
The upper bound gets even stricter if one subtracts the language collections defined in 639-2 and the ones yet to be defined in ISO 639-5.
There are 58 languages in ISO 639-2 which are considered, for the purposes of the standard, to be "macrolanguages" in ISO 639-3.
Some of these macrolanguages had no individual language as defined by ISO 639-3 in the code set of ISO 639-2, e.g. 'ara' (Generic Arabic). Others like 'nor' (Norwegian) had their two individual parts ('nno' (Nynorsk), 'nob' (Bokmål)) already in ISO 639-2.
That means some languages (e.g. 'arb', Standard Arabic) that were considered by ISO 639-2 to be dialects of one language ('ara') are now in ISO 639-3 in certain contexts considered to be individual languages themselves.
This is an attempt to deal with varieties that may be linguistically distinct from each other, but are treated by their speakers as two forms of the same language, e.g. in cases of diglossia.
See for the complete list.
"A collective language code element is an identifier that represents a group of individual languages that are not deemed to be one language in any usage context." These codes do not precisely represent a particular language or macrolanguage.
While ISO 639-2 includes three-letter identifiers for collective languages, these codes are excluded from ISO 639-3. Hence ISO 639-3 is not a superset of ISO 639-2.
ISO 639-5 defines 3-letter collective codes for language families and groups, including the collective language codes from ISO 639-2.
Four codes are set aside in ISO 639-2 and ISO 639-3 for cases where none of the specific codes are appropriate. These are intended primarily for applications like databases where an ISO code is required regardless of whether one exists.
|zxx||No linguistic content|
mis(originally an abbreviation for 'miscellaneous') is intended for languages which have not (yet) been included in the ISO standard.
mulis intended for cases where the data includes more than one language, and (for example) the database requires a single ISO code.
undis intended for cases where the language in the data has not been identified, such as when it is mislabeled or never had been labeled. It is not intended for cases such as Trojan where an unattested language has been given a name.
zxxis intended for data which is not a language at all, such as animal calls.
|qnp||unnamed proto-language (Linguist List only)|
This is used for proposed intermediate nodes in a family tree that have no name.
The code table for ISO 639-3 is open to changes. In order to protect stability of existing usage, the changes permitted are limited to:
The code assigned to a language is not changed unless there is also a change in denotation.
Changes are made on an annual cycle. Every request is given a minimum period of three months for public review.
The ISO 639-3 Web site has pages that describe "scopes of denotation" (languoid types) and types of languages, which explain what concepts are in scope for encoding and certain criteria that need to be met. For example, constructed languages can be encoded, but only if they are designed for human communication and have a body of literature, preventing requests for idiosyncratic inventions.
The registration authority documents on its Web site instructions made in the text of the ISO 639-3 standard regarding how the code tables are to be maintained. It also documents the processes used for receiving and processing change requests.
A change request form is provided, and there is a second form for collecting information about proposed additions. Any party can submit change requests. When submitted, requests are initially reviewed by the registration authority for completeness.
When a fully documented request is received, it is added to a published Change Request Index. Also, announcements are sent to the general LINGUIST discussion list at Linguist List and other lists the registration authority may consider relevant, inviting public review and input on the requested change. Any list owner or individual is able to request notifications of change requests for particular regions or language families. Comments that are received are published for other parties to review. Based on consensus in comments received, a change request may be withdrawn or promoted to "candidate status".
Three months prior to the end of an annual review cycle (typically in September), an announcement is set to the LINGUIST discussion list and other lists regarding Candidate Status Change Requests. All requests remain open for review and comment through the end of the annual review cycle.
Decisions are announced at the end of the annual review cycle (typically in January). At that time, requests may be adopted in whole or in part, amended and carried forward into the next review cycle, or rejected. Rejections often include suggestions on how to modify proposals for resubmission. A public archive of every change request is maintained along with the decisions taken and the rationale for the decisions.
Linguists Morey, Post and Friedman raise various criticisms of ISO 639, and in particular ISO 639-3:
Martin Haspelmath agrees with four of these points, but not the point about language change. He disagrees because any account of a language requires identifying it, and we can easily identify different stages of a language. He suggests that linguists may prefer to use a codification that is made at the languoid level since "it rarely matters to linguists whether what they are talking about is a language, a dialect or a close-knit family of languages." He also questions whether an ISO standard for language identification is appropriate since ISO is an industrial organization, while he views language documentation and nomenclature as a scientific endeavor. He cites the original need for standardized language identifiers as having been "the economic significance of translation and software localization," for which purposes the ISO 639-1 and 639-2 standards were established. But he raises doubts about industry need for the comprehensive coverage provided by ISO 639-3, including as it does "little-known languages of small communities that are never or hardly used in writing and that are often in danger of extinction".
Ashanti, Asante, or Asante Twi, is spoken by over 2.8 million Ashanti people. Ashanti (or Ashanti Twi) is one of three literary dialects of the Akan language of West Africa, and the prestige dialect of that language. It is spoken in and around Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
The two dialects of Akuapem and Asante are known as Twi and are in many ways mutually intelligible. There are about 9 million Twi speakers, mainly in Ashanti. Akuapem Twi was the first dialect to be used for Bible translation, and became the prestige dialect as a result.In Ethnologue and ISO 639-3, Asante is analysed as a dialect of Twi. Twi in its turn is a language belonging to the macrolanguage of Akan. In Glottolog, Asante is found as a sub-dialect of Twi, which is in turn classified as a dialect of the Akan language.Burgundian language (Oïl)
The Burgundian language, also known by French names Bourguignon-morvandiau, Bourguignon, and Morvandiau, is an Oïl language spoken in Burgundy and particularly in the Morvan area of the region.
The arrival of the Burgundians brought Germanic elements into the Gallo-Romance speech of the inhabitants. The occupation of the Low Countries by the Dukes of Burgundy also brought Burgundian into contact with Dutch; e.g., the word for gingerbread couque derives from Old Dutch kooke (cake).
Dialects of the south along the Saône river, such as Brionnais-Charolais, have been influenced by the Arpitan language, which is spoken mainly in a neighbouring area that approximates the heartland of the original Kingdom of Burgundy.
Eugène de Chambure published a Glossaire du Morvan in 1878.Central Plains Mandarin
Central Plains Mandarin, or Zhongyuan Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 中原官话; traditional Chinese: 中原官話; pinyin: zhōngyuán guānhuà), is a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in the central and southern parts of Shaanxi, Henan, southwestern part of Shanxi, southern part of Gansu, far southern part of Hebei, northern Anhui, northern parts of Jiangsu, southern Xinjiang and southern Shandong.The archaic dialect in Peking opera is a form of Zhongyuan Mandarin.
Among Hui people, Zhongyuan Mandarin is sometimes written with the Arabic alphabet, called Xiao'erjing ("Children's script").Ewondo Populaire
Ewondo Populair is a Beti-based pidgin of Cameroon, spoken in the area of the capital Yaoundé.Gao-Yang Yue
Gao-Yang, or Gao-Lei, is one of four principal dialects of Yue (Cantonese). It is spoken in and around Maoming and Yangjiang in southwestern Guangdong.
The name derives from its two subdialects, Gaozhou and Yangjiang.ISO 639 macrolanguage
ISO 639-3 is an international standard for language codes. In defining some of its language codes, some are classified as macrolanguages, which include other individual languages in the standard. This category exists to assist mapping between another set of languages codes, ISO 639-2, and ISO 639-3. ISO 639-3 is curated by SIL International, ISO 639-2 is curated by the Library of Congress (USA).
The mapping often has the implication that it covers borderline cases where two language varieties may be considered strongly divergent dialects of the same language or very closely related languages (dialect continuums); it may also encompass situations when there are language varieties that are considered to be varieties of the same language on the grounds of ethnic, cultural, political and/or religious considerations, rather than linguistic reasons. However, this is not its primary function and the classification is not evenly applied.
For example, Chinese is a macrolanguage encompassing many languages that are not mutually intelligible, but the languages "Standard German", "Bavarian German", and other closely related languages do not form a macrolanguage, despite being more mutually intelligible. Other examples include Tajiki not being part of the Persian macrolanguage despite sharing much lexicon, and Urdu and Hindi not forming a macrolanguage despite forming a mutually intelligible dialect continuum. Even all dialects of Hindi are considered as separate languages. Basically, ISO 639-2 and ISO 639-3 use different criteria for dividing language varieties into languages, 639-2 uses shared writing systems and literature more whereas 639-3 focuses on mutual intelligibility and shared lexicon. The macrolanguages exist within the ISO 639-3 code set to make mapping between the two sets easier.
As of 14 September 2018, there are fifty-eight language codes in ISO 639-2 that are considered to be macrolanguages in ISO 639-3. The use of this category of macrolanguage was applied in Ethnologue, starting in the 16th edition.Some of the macrolanguages had no individual language (as defined by 639-3) in ISO 639-2, e.g. "ara" (Arabic), but ISO 639-3 recognizes different varieties of Arabic as separate languages under some circumstances. Others, like "nor" (Norwegian) had their two individual parts (nno Nynorsk, nob Bokmål) already in 639-2. That means some languages (e.g. "arb" Standard Arabic) that were considered by ISO 639-2 to be dialects of one language ("ara") are now in ISO 639-3 in certain contexts considered to be individual languages themselves. This is an attempt to deal with varieties that may be linguistically distinct from each other, but are treated by their speakers as forms of the same language, e.g. in cases of diglossia. For example,
Generic Arabic, 639-2
Standard Arabic, 639-3ISO 639-2 also includes codes for collections of languages; these are not the same as macrolanguages. These collections of languages are excluded from ISO 639-3, because they never refer to individual languages. Most such codes are included in ISO 639-5.Languedocien dialect
Languedocien (French name) or Lengadocian (native name) is an Occitan dialect spoken in rural parts of southern France such as Languedoc, Rouergue, Quercy, Agenais and Southern Périgord. Due to its central position among the dialects of Occitan, it is often used as a basis for a Standard Occitan.About 10% of the population of Languedoc are fluent in the language (about 300,000),and another 20% (600,000) "have some understanding" of the language. All speak French as their first or second language.Limousin dialect
Limousin (Occitan: Lemosin) is a dialect of the Occitan language, spoken in the three departments of Limousin, parts of Charente and the Dordogne in the southwest of France.
The first Occitan documents are in an early form of this dialect, particularly the Boecis, written around the year 1000.
Limousin is used primarily by people over age 50 in rural communities. All speakers speak French as a first or second language. Due to the French single language policy, it is not recognised by the government and might be disappearing. A revivalist movement around the Felibrige and the Institut d'Estudis Occitans is active in Limousin (as well as in other parts of Occitania).List of ISO 639-3 codes
These are lists of ISO 639-3 language codes.
Lop, also known as Lopnor or Lopnur is a language spoken in Xinjiang, China.Mecklenburgisch-Vorpommersch dialect
Mecklenburgisch-Vorpommersch is a Low German dialect spoken in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It belongs to the East Low German group.
In the western parts of the language area it is similar to some Low Saxon dialects, while the eastern parts are influenced by the Central Pomeranian (Mittelpommersch) dialect. It differs slightly from East Pomeranian, which used to be spoken widely in the nowadays Polish part of Farther Pomerania and included much more Slavic Pomeranian and Kashubian influence.
The name Pomerania comes from Slavic po more, which means Land at the Sea.Monégasque dialect
Monégasque (natively Munegascu) is a variety of Ligurian, a Gallo-Italic language spoken in Monaco as well as nearby in Italy and France.
Monégasque is officially taught in the schools of Monaco and spoken by a minority of residents and as a common second language by many native residents as the Grimaldi, princes of Monaco, have a Ligurian origin. In Monaco-Ville, street signs are printed in both French and Monégasque.Ningbo dialect
The Ningbo dialect (Chinese: 宁波话/寧波話, 宁波闲话/寧波閒話) is a dialect of Wu Chinese, one subdivision of Chinese language. Ningbo dialect is spoken throughout Ningbo and Zhoushan prefectures, in Zhejiang province.Old Xiang
Old Xiang, also known as Lou-Shao (娄邵片 / 婁邵片) is a conservative form of Xiang Chinese. It is spoken in the central areas of Hunan where it has been to some extent isolated from neighboring Chinese varieties, Mandarin and Gan, and it retains the voiced plosives of Middle Chinese, which are otherwise only preserved in Wu dialects like Shanghainese. See Shuangfeng dialect for details.Ramree dialect
Ramree, or Yangbye ("Rambray" in Arakanese)(Burmese: ရမ်းဗြဲဘာသာစကား, Burmese pronunciation: [jáɴbjɛ́ bàðà zəɡá]), is the main dialect spoken in Southern Arakan, especially in Ramree Island region, Arakan State in Burma (Myanmar), and the Awagyun Island and southern coastal regions in Bangladesh. Ramree language is also widely spoken along the South Arakan coast, including the western areas of the Irrawaddy Division, Burma.Taihu Wu
Taihu Wu (吳語太湖片) or Northern Wu dialects (北部吳語) are a group of Wu dialects spoken over much of southern part of Jiangsu province, including Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, the southern part of Nantong, Jingjiang and Danyang; the municipality of Shanghai; and the northern part of Zhejiang province, including Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Huzhou, and Jiaxing. A notable exception is the dialect of the town of Jinxiang, which is a linguistic exclave of Taihu Wu in Zhenan Min-speaking Cangnan county of Wenzhou prefecture in Zhejiang province. This group makes up the largest population among all Wu speakers. The subdialects of this region are mutually intelligible with each other.Xuanzhou Wu dialects
Xuanzhou Wu (宣州吳語) is a western branch of Wu Chinese spoken in and around Xuancheng, Anhui province. The dialect has declined since the Taiping Rebellion, with an influx of Mandarin-speaking immigrants from north of the Yangtze River.Yi-Liu dialect
Yi-Liu, sometimes called Yichun dialect (simplified Chinese: 宜春话; traditional Chinese: 宜春話) after its principal variety, is a dialect of Gan Chinese. It is spoken in Yichun in Jiangxi province and in Liuyang in Hunan, after which it is named, as well as inShanggao, Qingjiang, Xingan, Xinyu City, Fen yi, Pingxiang City, Fengcheng, Wanzai in Jiangxi and in Liling in Hunan.