language identifiers - iso 639

From: Keld J|rn Simonsen (
Date: Tue Sep 12 1995 - 19:41:47 EDT

Asmus Freytag writes:

> One certainly does NOT want to assign Unicode code points directly
> as language tags as the first step. This just muddles everything.
> However, I believe the UTC should discuss this issue and consider
> whether it might be worthwhile to come up with a position regarding
> language identifiers (issue 1) from above), especially in what way the
> knowledge of text language would influence the _interpretation_ of a
> stream of Unicode encoded text. UTC could then review existing sources
> of language identifiers and recommend improvements, up to and including
> setting up its own list as last resort. None of this would mean that
> these are incorporated into the Unicode Standard as such.

Thanks for spelling out that there will not be any encoding of
language in the Unicode codeset.

We did talk about how to handle language codes in CEN when we
looked at how to specify the locale name syntax for the CEN
cultural registry, and there our decision was to follow the
POSIX and X/Open tradition to use the ISO 639 names, just as the
internet RFC earlier mentioned. For languages our proposal was
to use the maintenance mechanism of ISO 639 instead of turning to
other mechanisms. In that way we would keep all the standards involved
consistent and aligned, and the maintenance of ISO 639 is a quite
expedient way to have these specifications full normative ISO
standard status - new codes can become full ISO standard state
after about 3 months from the proposal. We are in CEN planning
to propose a number of new language codes, for the European
languages that we are working on right now.

I think introducing a Unicode language identifier would mess up
the consensus that there is now on using ISO 639 as the prime
identifier standard for languages.

I see that there is a need to keep registrations meaning what
they did 'forever' - but I think that there is no intention from
the MA of ISO 639 to allocate new lanuages to old codes.


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