ISO 639-1

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ISO 639-1:2002, Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 1: Alpha-2 code, is the first part of the ISO 639 series of international standards for language codes. Part 1 covers the registration of two-letter codes. There are 184 two-letter codes registered as of October 2015. The registered codes cover the world's major languages.

These codes are a useful international and formal shorthand for indicating languages. For example:

  • Arabic is represented by ar
  • Armenian is represented by hy (from the endonym հայերէն, Hayeren)
  • Chinese is represented by zh (from the endonym 中文, Zhōngwén)
  • Czech is represented by cs (from the endonym česky or čeština)
  • Danish is represented by da
  • Dutch is represented by nl (from the endonym Nederlands)
  • English is represented by en
  • Esperanto is represented by eo
  • Finnish is represented by fi (even though its endonym is suomi)
  • French is represented by fr
  • Georgian is represented by ka (from the endonym ქართული, kartuli)
  • German is represented by de (from the endonym Deutsch)
  • Greek is represented by el (from the endonym ελληνικά, elliniká)
  • Italian is represented by it
  • Japanese is represented by ja (even though its endonym is 日本語, Nihongo)
  • Korean is represented by ko (even though its endonym is 한국어 韓國語, Hangugeo)
  • Malay is represented by ms (even though its endonym is Bahasa Melayu)
  • Kurdish is represented by ku (from the endonym کوردی, Kurdî)
  • Persian is represented by fa (from the endonym فارسی, farsi)
  • Polish is represented by pl
  • Portuguese is represented by pt
  • Romanian is represented by ro
  • Russian is represented by ru
  • Spanish is represented by es (from the endonym español)
  • Swedish is represented by sv (from the endonym svenska)
  • Tagalog is represented by tl
  • Turkish is represented by tr
  • Urdu is represented by ur (from the endonym اُردو, urdu)

Many multilingual web sites—such as Wikipedia—use these codes to prefix URLs of specific language versions of their web sites: for example, is the English version of Wikipedia. See also IETF language tag. (Two-letter country-specific top-level-domain code suffixes are often different from these language-tag prefixes).

ISO 639, the original standard for language codes, was approved in 1967. It was split into parts, and in 2002 ISO 639-1 became the new revision of the original standard. The last code added was ht, representing Haitian Creole on 2003-02-26. The use of the standard was encouraged by IETF language tags, introduced in RFC 1766 in March 1995, and continued by RFC 3066 from January 2001 and RFC 4646 from September 2006. The current version is RFC 5646 from September 2009. Infoterm (International Information Center for Terminology) is the registration authority for ISO 639-1 codes.

New ISO 639-1 codes are not added if an ISO 639-2 code exists, so systems that use ISO 639-1 and 639-2 codes, with 639-1 codes preferred, do not have to change existing codes.[1]

If an ISO 639-2 code that covers a group of languages is used, it might be overridden for some specific languages by a new ISO 639-1 code.

ISO 639-1 codes added after RFC publication in January 2001
ISO 639-1ISO 639-2NameDate addedPreviously covered by
iiiiiSichuan Yi2002-10-14sit
hthatHaitian Creole2003-02-26cpf

There is no specification on treatment of macrolanguages (see ISO 639-3).

See also


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