Search by Language
This facility searches a database containing all current ISO 639-3 codes, both those defined by Ethnologue and the supplemental codes for ancient languages defined by the LINGUIST List. Where no ISO 639-3 codes exist, local use codes have been defined by the LINGUIST List. Send an email to the LINGUIST List at multitree linguistlist.org to make corrections to codes and their descriptions, or to request an additional code.
The initial search that you perform will return information about the genetic relationships of a language, dialect, or family which are most commonly accepted by linguists. However, once you have clicked on that language you will also be able to view alternative hypotheses. These will sometimes be hypotheses that very few linguists accept, for the MultiTree system is designed to show as many hypotheses as possible.
- What is an ISO 639-3 code?
- What is a local use code?
- What are the other codes I am seeing?
- Where are the codes for extinct or constructed languages?
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What is an ISO 639-3 code?
ISO is an abbreviation for International Organization for Standardization, and all standards it has approved have the ISO prefix. ISO 639-3 is thus the ISO standard which uniquely identifies all of the world's languages, including those that are ancient, extinct, historic and constructed, by 3-letter codes. These codes are always alphabetic, and are always in lower case. They are used in fields such as linguistics, lexicography, and computerized information systems. The vast majority of these codes were developed by the Summer Institute of Linguistics for the Ethnologue, an extensive catalog of the world's languages. The remainder -- which code mainly ancient and historic languages -- were defined by The LINGUIST List.
What is a local use code?
A certain subset of codes, qaa through qtz, has been designated for "local use." This means that the code can be used to uniquely identify a language which does not appear in the standard. Since this is the number of local use codes is limited, and the number of languages which LINGUIST has in its database is very large, these local use codes have been expanded by numerals. A local use code may eventually become incorporated into the standard as more research is done, but if it is, its code will change, for codes in the local use range can never be used in the standard. Local use codes should never be used away from the site they originate on.
What are the other codes I am seeing?
Because the ISO 639-3 standard only accommodates languages, additional private use codes have been created to represent subgroups and dialects. A dialect code is formed from the first three letters of its parent language followed by a dash and an additional three letters, e.g . xyz-abc. Subgroup codes are four letters, e.g abcd.
Where are the codes for extinct or constructed languages?
There is a list of codes for extinct languages on the MultiTree website at the link below:
To see a list of codes for constructed languages, click the link below: