[Accessforall] Codes for languages in ISO 24751 and the registry

Christophe Strobbe christophestrobbe at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Oct 3 12:43:33 EDT 2012


While creating a preference set for one of the personas in the Cloud4all smarthouse simulation <http://wiki.gpii.net/index.php/SmartHouses_Preference_Sets>, I looked into language codes and found the following: 

(1) ISO/IEC 24751:2008 (all subparts) refer to ISO 639-2:1998 for language codes. In the registry, the value space for "language" is [ISO 639-2/T] (I don't know the reason for the square brackets). According to <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ISO_639-2_codes> and <http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/code_list.php>, the ISO 639-2 codes are three-letter codes (e.g. "eng" for English, "dut" or "nld" for Dutch, "fre" or "fra" for French, etc). However, the JSON preference sets I've seen so far (I mean those by the GPII/Cloud4all Architecture team) use two-letter codes (see Carla's, Nisha's and Timothy's preference sets). Am I misreading the information I found about ISO 639-2?
(2) Related to this is the absence of country information, i.e. combining a language code with a country code from ISO 3166 (see <http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/faq.html#22>). This is relevant to text-to-speech engines and Braille. For example for Dutch, not many people in Flanders are keen on TTS that uses pronunciation rules from the Netherlands. Braille conventions also vary between countries that use the same official language (well, they even vary between Braille centres, but let's not go into that).
(3) Note that IETF RFC 4646 <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc4646> gives preference to the shortest ISO 639 code (2 or three letters) that is available for a language (check the ABNF syntax under <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc4646#section-2.1>). This base code can then be combined with an ISO 3166 country code, to create tags like en-US (American English) and en-GB (British English). However, IETF RFC 4646 is referenced neither by ISO 24751 nor by the registry.

Best regards,

Christophe Strobbe
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