Internationally recognized code for the representation of more than 500 languages or language families, with ISO 639
ISO 639, Code for individual languages and language groups, can be applied across many types of organization and situations. It is needed for the basic settings of billions of user interfaces to ICT systems and devices, as well as for the indication of different language versions of websites. It is indispensable for information management in publishing, librarianship, and for large networks.
Using a language identifier (of two or three letters), rather than the name of a language, has many benefits as some cultures may have different names for the same language, while some languages may share the same, or similar, names even though they are unrelated.
The ISO 639 language code comprises four sets of language identifiers:
- Set 1: two-letter language identifiers (originally as in ISO 639-1:2002) for major, mostly national individual languages.
- Set 2: three-letter language identifiers (originally as in ISO 639-2:1998) for a larger number of widely known individual languages (including all individual languages covered by Set 1) and a number of language groups.
- Set 3: three-letter language identifiers (originally as in ISO 639-3:2007) covering all individual languages (including all individual languages covered by Set 2), including living, extinct and ancient languages.
- Set 5: three-letter language identifiers (originally as in ISO 639-5:2008) covering a larger set of language groups, living and extinct (including all language groups covered by Set 2).
The four sets of language identifiers of the ISO 639 language code are open lists that can be extended and refined. A Maintenance Agency has been established to maintain them.
The maintenance and publication of the four sets of language identifiers of the ISO 639 language code is delegated to three Language Coding Agencies (LCAs):
- The International Information Centre for Terminology (Infoterm) functions as the LCA for Set 1.
- The Library of Congress (LoC) functions as the LCA for Set 2 and Set 5.
- SIL international (SIL) functions as the LCA for Set 3.
Using ISO Codes
ISO allows free-of-charge use of its country, currency and language codes from ISO 3166, ISO 4217 and ISO 639, respectively.
Users of ISO country codes have the option to subscribe to a paid service that automatically provides updates and supplies the data in formats* that are ready-to-use for a wide range of applications. For more information, visit the ISO Store.
*(.csv, .xml and .xls formats)