The Info List - ISO 639-2

--- Advertisement ---

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 US Library of Congress
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.


* 1 History and relationship to other ISO 639 standards * 2 B and T codes

* 3 Scopes and types

* 3.1 Collections of languages * 3.2 Reserved for local use * 3.3 Special

* 4 See also * 5 External links


Work was begun on the ISO 639-2 standard in 1989, because the ISO 639-1 standard, which uses only two-letter codes for languages, is not able to accommodate a sufficient number of languages. The ISO 639-2 standard was first released in 1998.

In practice, ISO 639-2 has largely been superseded by ISO 639-3 (2007), which includes codes for all the individual languages in ISO 639-2 plus many more. It also includes the special and reserved codes, and is designed not to conflict with ISO 639-2. ISO 639-3, however, does not include any of the collective languages in ISO 639-2; most of these are included in ISO 639-5 .


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 and resembles the language's two-letter code in ISO 639-1. There were originally 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 from ISO 639-2/B when possible.


The codes in ISO 639-2 have a variety of "scopes of denotation", or types of meaning and use, some of which are described in more detail below.

* Individual languages * Macrolanguages (see ISO 639 macrolanguage ) * Collections of languages * Dialects * Reserved for local use * Special

Individual languages are further classified as to type:

* Living languages * Extinct languages * Ancient languages * Historic languages * Constructed languages


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 .

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

The following two codes are identified as collective codes in ISO 639-2 but are (at present) missing from ISO 639-5:

* bih Bihari (has the ISO 639-1 code bh) * him Himachali

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

* afa Afro-Asiatic languages
Afro-Asiatic languages
* alg Algonquian languages * apa Apache languages * art artificial languages * ath Athapascan languages * aus Australian languages * bad Banda languages * bai Bamileke languages * bal Balochi language * bat Baltic languages
Baltic languages
* ber Berber languages * bnt Bantu languages * btk Batak languages * cai Central American Indian languages * cau Caucasian languages * cel Celtic languages
Celtic languages
* cmc Chamic languages * col Shilluk language * cpe creoles and pidgins, English-based * cpf creoles and pidgins, French-based * cpp creoles and pidgins, Portuguese-based * crp creoles and pidgins * cus Cushitic languages
Cushitic languages
* day Land Dayak languages * dra Dravidian languages * fiu Finno-Ugrian languages * gem Germanic languages
Germanic languages
* ijo Ijo languages * inc Indic languages * ine Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
* ira Iranian languages
Iranian languages
* iro Iroquoian languages * kar Karen languages * khi Khoisan languages * kor Korean languages * kro Kru languages * map Austronesian languages
Austronesian languages
* mkh Mon–Khmer languages * mno Manobo languages * mun Munda languages
Munda languages
* myn Mayan languages * nah Nahuatl languages * nai North American Indian languages
North American Indian languages
* nic Niger–Congo languages * nub Nubian languages * oto Otomian languages * paa Papuan languages
Papuan languages
* phi Philippine languages * pra Prakrit languages * roa Romance languages
Romance languages
* sai South American Indian languages * sal Salishan languages
Salishan languages
* sem Semitic languages
Semitic languages
* sgn sign languages * sio Siouan languages * sit Sino-Tibetan languages
Sino-Tibetan languages
* sla Slavic languages
Slavic languages
* smi Sami languages * son Songhai languages * ssa Nilo-Saharan languages * tai Tai languages * tup Tupi languages
Tupi languages
* tut Altaic languages * wak Wakashan languages * wen Sorbian languages * ypk Yupik languages * znd Zande languages


The interval from QAA to QTZ is 'reserved for local use' and is not used in ISO 639-2 nor in ISO 639-3 . These codes are typically used privately for languages not (yet) in either standard.


There are four generic codes for special situations:

* MIS is listed as "uncoded languages" (originally an abbreviation for "miscellaneous") * MUL (for multiple languages) is applied when several languages are used and it is not practical to specify all the appropriate language codes * 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", e.g. animal sounds (added 2006-01-11)

These four codes are also used in ISO 639-3 .


* List of ISO 639-2 codes * Language code