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The ISO 639 Language Code

Early efforts to establish an ISO language code are closely connected to the history of Infoterm and its founder Eugen Wüster (1898-1977), the Chairperson of ISO/TC 37 from 1951 to 1971. After 1998, ISO 639:1988 Code for the representation of names of languages started branching out into several parts. (See History of ISO 639)

Since the mid-1990s, the need for a harmonized language code has grown in an increasing number of application fields, especially in information and documentation, as well as language documentation and language technology beyond studies of human language.

In 2023, extensive revision work resulted in:

  • Publication of one International Standard in the form of the 2nd edition of the International Standard ISO 639:2023 Code for individual languages and language groups
  • Establishment of the ISO 639 Maintenance Agency (ISO 639/MA)

Further information on the ISO 639 website:

Infoterm functions as the Language Coding Agency (LCA) for the 2-letter language identifiers (and related data) in the framework of ISO 639/MA, today called language identifier Set 1 of the ISO 639 language code.

 The data of Set 1 are publicly available at:

Change Requests (CR) concerning existing language identifier Set 1 can be directed to Infoterm or to the ISO 639/MA Secretariat: CRs shall be submitted using the Change Request form available at:

Last update: 2024-03-12

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