ISO 639-3 is the International Organization for Standardization's registry of the languages of the world. It is comprised of living languages taken from SIL's Ethnologue, as well as extinct, ancient, reconstructed, and artificial languages.
The current registry includes over 7000 languages, each identified by a unique three-letter code. Languages are also assigned a name and a type (living, extinct, ancient, or constructed).
The standard distinguishes between individual and macrolanguages. A macrolanguage is a grouping of dialects that are closely enough related that they may be considered a single language for some purposes. For instance, the macrolanguage called Arabic (ara) consists of Standard Arabic (arb) as well as Egyptian Arabic (arz), Moroccan Arabic (ary), and several dozen other dialects. Similarly, the individual Central, Northern and Southern varieties of Kurdish (ckb, kmr and sdh, respectively) are grouped together into the Kurdish macrolanguage (kur).
Earlier versions of ISO 639
The first version of the standard, ISO 639-1, included a few hundred well-known languages that were identified by unique two-letter codes. ISO 639-2 included a larger number of languages, and began to use three-letter codes as well as the two-letter ones. ISO 639-3 is intended to be much more comprehensive and assigns each language a unique three-letter code. While ISO 639-1 is mostly obsolete, the ISO 639-2 standard continues to be used alongside of ISO 639-3, including the two-letter codes for languages that have been assigned them.
ISO 639-3 and the Ethnologue
SIL International, the maintainer of the Ethnologue, also serves as registration authority for ISO 639-3, and the living and recently extinct languages in ISO 639-3 correspond, with a very few exceptions, to the languages of the Ethnologue. The most significant difference between the two registries is that the ISO standard includes ancient, reconstructed, and artificial languages as well as those currently or recently in use. The Ethnologue defines additional categories for nearly extinct languages and those that are spoken only as a second language, and this information is reflected in ScriptSource data. The Ethnologue also includes extensive information gained from SIL's linguistic research; a small amount of this, specifically alternate language names and dialects, is included in ScriptSource.
Contributing Information to the language databases
If you would like to suggest improvements to the ISO 639-3, please submit data to the registrar per the instructions.
To contribute information to the Ethnologue, contact the ; please also read the FAQs page.