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ISO 639-3

This is the home page for Part 3 of the ISO 639 family of standards, Codes for the representation of names of languages. ISO 639-3 attempts to provide as complete an enumeration of languages as possible, including living, extinct, ancient, and constructed languages, whether major or minor, written or unwritten.

2017 Annual Changes Posted

The 2017 decisions are now posted on the website and available for download. Here is a brief look at the changes made:

Summary of requested changes

Altogether 35 requests were considered, recommending 40 explicit changes in the code set. Among those decided, 11 have been rejected, 21 have been fully approved, and one was partially approved. Two are waiting for additional information before a decision can be made. In addition, decisions were made on three deferred requests from 2016, two based on the criteria for full languages document and one based on additional information from the requester.

The explicit changes can be analyzed as follows:

The two requests that were deferred in 2016 because they were requests to identify and code languages which have emerged from contact situations were decided in this decision cycle. These were based on a new criteria document that will guide decisions on coding for such languages in the future. This criteria document was presented to the Joint Working Group 7 of ISO and was given preliminary approval. We expect that it will be part of the new draft of ISO 639 which is currently in development. Interested parties can read it in full here. The new criteria are also the basis for the rejections of requests for codes for several constructed languages made in 2017.

In addition to the numbered and posted change requests for 2017, there were a number of routine maintenance updates. 11 language types were changed from living to extinct and 2 types changed from extinct to living. There were also 4 name updates for languages which were originally given country name disambiguators of (Sudan) but which are now given the disambiguator (South Sudan). A fifth disambiguator of (South Sudan) was assigned to the code for Bai (South Sudan) as it is often confused with the Bai languages of China.

The history of any change request may be viewed on its documentation page of the pattern:
Likewise, the history of any code element may be viewed on its documentation page of the pattern:

Change Requests for the 2018 cycle are now being accepted. Submit Change Request forms by email to the Registration Authority at .

ISO 639-3 is a code that aims to define three-letter identifiers for all known human languages. At the core of ISO 639-3 are the individual languages already accounted for in ISO 639-2. The large number of living languages in the initial inventory of ISO 639-3 beyond those already included in ISO 639-2 was derived primarily from Ethnologue (15th edition). Additional extinct, ancient, historic, and constructed languages have been obtained from Linguist List.

SIL International has been designated as the ISO 639-3/RA for the purpose of processing requests for alpha-3 language codes comprising the International Standard, Codes for the representation of names of languages - Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages. The ISO 639-3/RA receives and reviews applications for requesting new language codes and for the change of existing ones according to criteria indicated in the standard. It maintains an accurate list of information associated with registered language codes which can be viewed on or downloaded from this website, and processes updates of registered language codes. Notification of pending and adopted updates are also distributed on a regular basis to subscribers and other parties.

This is the official site of the ISO 639-3 Registration Authority and thus is the only one authorized by ISO. If you have questions concerning ISO 639-3 please contact us at:

SIL International
ISO 639-3 Registrar
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
Dallas, TX 75236

Phone: +1 972 708 7400 ext. 2100