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ISO639-2

Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages Part 2: Alpha-3 Code


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Introduction
ISO 639-2 Language Codes (with corresponding ISO 639-1 code) arranged alphabetically by:

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Introduction and scope

This website provides two sets of language codes as part of the ISO 639 standard, one as a two-letter code set (639-1) and another as a three-letter code set (this part of ISO 639) for the representation of names of languages. ISO 639-1 was devised primarily for use in terminology, lexicography and linguistics. ISO 639-2 represents all languages contained in ISO 639-1 and in addition any other language as well as language groups as they may be coded for special purposes when more specificity in coding is needed. The languages listed in ISO 639-1 are a subset of the languages listed in ISO 639-2; every language code in the two-letter code set has a corresponding language code in the alpha-3 list, but not necessarily vice versa.

ISO 639-2:1998 provides two sets of three-letter alphabetic codes for the representation of names of languages, one for terminology applications and the other for bibliographic applications. The code sets are the same except for twenty-five languages that have variant language codes because of the criteria used for formulating them. The language codes were devised originally for use by libraries, information services, and publishers to indicate language in the exchange of information, especially in computerized systems. These codes have been widely used in the library community and may be adopted for any application requiring the expression of language in coded form by terminologists and lexicographers. The alpha-2 code set was devised for practical use for most of the major languages of the world that are most frequently represented in the total body of the world's literature. Additional language codes are created when it becomes apparent that a significant body of literature in a particular language exists. Languages designed exclusively for machine use, such as computer programming languages, are not included in this code.

International Standard ISO 639-2 was prepared jointly by Technical Committees ISO/TC 37, Terminology and other language and content resources, Subcommittee SC 2, Layout of vocabularies and ISO/TC 46, Information and documentation, Subcommittee SC 4, Computer applications in information and documentation.

ISO 639 consists of the following parts, under the general title Codes for the representation of names of languages:

  • Part 1: Alpha-2 code
  • Part 2: Alpha-3 code
  • Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages
  • Part 4: Implementation guidelines and general principles for language coding
  • Part 5: Alpha-3 code for language families and groups
  • Part 6: Alpha-4 code for comprehensive coverage of language variants

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Status of this document

The code lists are continually updated as codes are added, deleted or changed. Updates will be announced in a newsletter at http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/codechanges.html.

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Network Development & MARC Standards Office

Updated: April 8, 2011

Comments on this document: iso639-2@loc.gov



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