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Copyright © The Internet Society (2005).
This document describes the structure, content, construction, and semantics of language tags for use in cases where it is desirable to indicate the language used in an information object. It also describes how to register values for use in language tags and the creation of user defined extensions for private interchange. This document obsoletes RFC 3066 (which replaced RFC 1766).
2. The Language Tag
2.1.1 Length Considerations
2.2 Language Subtag Sources and Interpretation
2.2.1 Primary Language Subtag
2.2.2 Extended Language Subtags
2.2.3 Script Subtag
2.2.4 Region Subtag
2.2.5 Variant Subtags
2.2.6 Extension Subtags
2.2.7 Private Use Subtags
2.2.8 Pre-Existing RFC 3066 Registrations
2.2.9 Classes of Conformance
3. Registry Format and Maintenance
3.1 Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry
3.2 Maintenance of the Registry
3.3 Stability of IANA Registry Entries
3.4 Registration Procedure for Subtags
3.5 Possibilities for Registration
3.6 Extensions and Extensions Namespace
3.7 Initialization of the Registry
4. Formation and Processing of Language Tags
4.1 Choice of Language Tag
4.2 Meaning of the Language Tag
4.3 Canonicalization of Language Tags
4.4 Considerations for Private Use Subtags
5. IANA Considerations
6. Security Considerations
7. Character Set Considerations
8. Changes from RFC 3066
9.1 Normative References
9.2 Informative References
§ Authors' Addresses
B. Examples of Language Tags (Informative)
C. Example Registry
§ Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements
Human beings on our planet have, past and present, used a number of languages. There are many reasons why one would want to identify the language used when presenting or requesting information.
Information about a user's language preferences commonly needs to be identified so that appropriate processing can be applied. For example, the user's language preferences in a browser can be used to select web pages appropriately. A choice of language preference can also be used to select among tools (such as dictionaries) to assist in the processing or understanding of content in different languages.
In addition, knowledge about the particular language used by some piece of information content may be useful or even required by some types of information processing; for example spell-checking, computer-synthesized speech, Braille transcription, or high-quality print renderings.
One means of indicating the language used is by labeling the information content with a language identifier. These identifiers can also be used to specify user preferences when selecting information content, or for labeling additional attributes of content and associated resources.
These identifiers can also be used to indicate additional attributes of content that are closely related to the language. In particular, it is often necessary to indicate specific information about the dialect, writing system, or orthography used in a document or resource, as these attributes may be important for the user to obtain information in a form that they can understand, or important in selecting appropriate processing resources for the given content.
This document specifies an identifier mechanism and a registration function for values to be used with that identifier mechanism. It also defines a mechanism for private use values and future extension.
This document replaces RFC 3066, which replaced RFC 1766. For a list of changes in this document, see Section 8 (Changes from RFC 3066).
The keywords "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 (Bradner, S., “Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels,” March 1997.).
The language tag is composed of one or more parts: A primary language subtag and a (possibly empty) series of subsequent subtags. Subtags are distinguished by their length, position in the subtag sequence, and content, so that each type of subtag can be recognized solely by these features. This makes it possible to construct a parser that can extract and assign some semantic information to the subtags, even if specific subtag values are not recognized. Thus a parser need not have an up-to-date copy of the registered subtag values to perform most searching and matching operations.
The syntax of this tag in ABNF  (Crocker, D. and P. Overell, “Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF,” March 2005.) is:
Language-Tag = (lang *3("-" extlang) ["-" script] ["-" region] *("-" variant) *("-" extension) ["-" privateuse]) / privateuse ; private-use tag / grandfathered ; grandfathered registrations lang = 2*4ALPHA ; shortest ISO 639 code / registered-lang extlang = 3ALPHA ; reserved for future use script = 4ALPHA ; ISO 15924 code region = 2ALPHA ; ISO 3166 code / 3DIGIT ; UN country number variant = 5*8alphanum ; registered variants / ( DIGIT 3alphanum ) extension = singleton 1*("-" (2*8alphanum)) privateuse = ("x"/"X") 1*("-" (1*8alphanum)) singleton = %x41-57 / %x59-5A / %x61-77 / %x79-7A / DIGIT ; "a"-"w" / "y"-"z" / "A"-"W" / "Y"-"Z" / "0"-"9" ; Single letters: x/X is reserved for private use registered-lang = 4*8ALPHA ; registered language subtag grandfathered = 1*3ALPHA 1*2("-" (2*8alphanum)) ; grandfathered registration ; Note: i is the only singleton ; that starts a grandfathered tag alphanum = (ALPHA / DIGIT) ; letters and numbers
| Figure 1: Language Tag ABNF |
The character "-" is HYPHEN-MINUS (ABNF: %x2D). All subtags have a maximum length of eight characters. Note that there is a subtlety in the ABNF for 'variant': variants starting with a digit may be only four characters long, while those starting with a letter must be at least five characters long.
Whitespace is not permitted in a language tag. For examples of language tags, see Appendix B (Examples of Language Tags (Informative)).
Note that although  (Crocker, D. and P. Overell, “Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF,” March 2005.) refers to octets, the language tags described in this document are sequences of characters from the US-ASCII repertoire. Language tags may be used in documents and applications that use other encodings, so long as these encompass the US-ASCII repertoire. An example of this would be an XML document that uses the UTF-16LE  (Hoffman, P. and F. Yergeau, “UTF-16, an encoding of ISO 10646,” February 2000.) encoding of Unicode (Unicode Consortium, “The Unicode Consortium. The Unicode Standard, Version 4.1.0, defined by: The Unicode Standard, Version 4.0 (Boston, MA, Addison-Wesley, 2003. ISBN 0-321-18578-1), as amended by Unicode 4.0.1 (http://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode4.0.1) and by Unicode 4.1.0 (http://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode4.1.0).,” March 2005.).
The tags and their subtags, including private-use and extensions, are to be treated as case insensitive: there exist conventions for the capitalization of some of the subtags, but these should not be taken to carry meaning.
However, in the tags defined by this document, the uppercase US-ASCII letters in the range 'A' through 'Z' are considered equivalent and mapped directly to their US-ASCII lowercase equivalents in the range 'a' through 'z'. Thus the tag "mn-Cyrl-MN" is not distinct from "MN-cYRL-mn" or "mN-cYrL-Mn" (or any other combination) and each of these variations conveys the same meaning: Mongolian written in the Cyrillic script as used in Mongolia.
Although neither the ABNF nor other guidelines in this document provide a fixed upper limit on the number of subtags in a Language Tag (and thus the upper bound on the size of a tag) and it is possible to envision quite long and complex subtag sequences, in practice these are rare because additional granularity in tags seldom adds useful distinguishing information and because longer, more granular tags interefere with the meaning, understanding, and processing of language tags.
A conformant implementation MAY refuse to support the storage of language tags which exceed a specified length. For an example, see [RFC 2231] (Freed, N. and K. Moore, “MIME Parameter Value and Encoded Word Extensions: Character Sets, Languages, and Continuations,” November 1997.). Any such limitation SHOULD be clearly documented, and such documentation SHOULD include the disposition of any longer tags (for example, whether an error value is generated or the language tag is truncated). If truncation is permitted it MUST NOT permit a subtag to be divided. Implementations that restrict storage should consider removing extensions before processing. A protocol that allows tags to be truncated at an arbitrary limit, without giving any indication of what that limit is, has the potential for causing harm by changing the meaning of tags in substantial ways.
In particular, variant subtags SHOULD be used only with their recommended prefix. In practice, this limits most tags to a sequence of four subtags, and thus a maximum length of 26 characters (excluding any extensions or private use sequences). This is because subtags are limited to a length of eight characters and the extlang, script, and region subtags are limited to even fewer characters. See Section 4.1 (Choice of Language Tag) for more information on selecting the most appropriate Language Tag.
Longer tags are possible. The longest tags (excluding extensions) could have a length of up to 62 characters, as shown below. Implementations MUST be able to handle tags of this length without truncation. Support for tags of up to 64 characters is RECOMMENDED. Implementations MAY support longer tags.
Here is how the 62-character length of the longest practical tag (excluding extensions) is derived:
language = 3 extlang1 = 4 extlang2 = 4 (unlikely: needs prefix="language-extlang1") extlang3 = 4 (extremely unlikely) script = 5 region = 4 (UN M.49) variant1 = 9 variant2 = 9 (unlikely: needs prefix="language-variant1") private use 1 = 11 ("-x-" + subtag) private use 2 = 9 total = 62 characters
| Figure 2: Derviation of the Longest Tag |
The namespace of language tags and their subtags is administered by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)  (Carpenter, B., Baker, F., and M. Roberts, “Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Technical Work of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority,” June 2000.) according to the rules in Section 5 (IANA Considerations) of this document. The registry maintained by IANA is the source for valid subtags: other standards referenced in this section provide the source material for that registry.
Terminology in this section:
The definitions in this section apply to the various subtags within the language tags defined by this document, excepting those "grandfathered" tags defined in Section 2.2.8 (Pre-Existing RFC 3066 Registrations).
Language tags are designed so that each subtag type has unique length and content restrictions. These make identification of the subtag's type possible, even if the content of the subtag itself is unrecognized. This allows tags to be parsed and processed without reference to the latest version of the underlying standards or the IANA registry and makes the associated exception handling when parsing tags simpler.
Subtags in the IANA registry that do not come from an underlying standard can only appear in specific positions in a tag. Specifically, they can only occur as primary language subtags or as variant subtags.
Note that sequences of private-use and extension subtags MUST occur at the end of the sequence of subtags and MUST NOT be interspersed with subtags defined elsewhere in this document.
Single letter and digit subtags are reserved for current or future use. These include the following current uses:
The single letter subtag 'i' is used by some grandfathered tags, such as "i-enochian", where it always appears in the first position and cannot be confused with an extension.
The primary language subtag is the first subtag in a language tag (with the exception of private-use and certain grandfathered tags) and cannot be omitted. The following rules apply to the primary language subtag:
Note: For languages that have both an ISO 639-1 two character code and an ISO 639-2 three character code, only the ISO 639-1 two character code is defined in the IANA registry.
Note: For languages that have no ISO 639-1 two character code and for which the ISO 639-2/T (Terminology) code and the ISO 639-2/B (Bibliographic) codes differ, only the Terminology code is defined in the IANA registry. At the time this document was created, all languages that had both kinds of three character code were also assigned a two character code; it is not expected that future assignments of this nature will occur.
Note: To avoid problems with versioning and subtag choice as experienced during the transition between RFC 1766 and RFC 3066, as well as the canonical nature of subtags defined by this document, the ISO 639 Registration Authority Joint Advisory Committee (ISO 639/RA-JAC) has included the following statement in  (ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee, “ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee: Working principles for ISO 639 maintenance,” March 2000.):
"A language code already in ISO 639-2 at the point of freezing ISO 639-1 shall not later be added to ISO 639-1. This is to ensure consistency in usage over time, since users are directed in Internet applications to employ the alpha-3 code when an alpha-2 code for that language is not available."
In order to avoid instability of the canonical form of tags, if a two character code is added to ISO 639-1 for a language for which a three character code was already included in ISO 639-2, the two character code will not be added as a subtag in the registry. See Section 3.3 (Stability of IANA Registry Entries).
For example, if some content were tagged with 'haw' (Hawaiian), which currently has no two character code, the tag would not be invalidated if ISO 639-1 were to assign a two character code to the Hawaiian language at a later date.
For example, one of the grandfathered IANA registrations is "i-enochian". The subtag 'enochian' could be registered in the IANA registry as a primary language subtag (assuming that ISO 639 does not register this language first), making tags such as "enochian-AQ" and "enochian-Latn" valid.
The following rules apply to the extended language subtags:
Extended language subtag records, once they appear in the registry, MUST include exactly one 'Prefix' field indicating an appropriate language subtag or sequence of subtags that MUST always appear as a prefix to the extended language subtag.
Example: In a future revision or update of this document, the tag "zh-gan" (registered under RFC 3066) might become a valid non-grandfathered (that is, redundant) tag in which the subtag 'gan' might represent the Chinese dialect 'Gan'.
The following rules apply to the script subtags:
Example: "de-Latn" represents German written using the Latin script.
The following rules apply to the region subtags:
- UN numeric codes assigned to 'macro-geographical (continental)' or sub-regions not associated with an assigned ISO 3166 alpha-2 code are defined.
- UN numeric codes for 'economic groupings' or 'other groupings' are not defined in the IANA registry and MUST NOT be used to form language tags.
- UN numeric codes for countries with ambiguous ISO 3166 alpha-2 codes as defined in Section 3.3 (Stability of IANA Registry Entries) are defined in the registry and are canonical for the given country or region defined.
- The alphanumeric codes in Appendix X of the UN document are not defined and MUST NOT be used to form language tags. (At the time this document was created these values match the ISO 3166 alpha-2 codes.)
"de-CH" represents German ('de') as used in Switzerland ('CH').
"sr-Latn-CS" represents Serbian ('sr') written using Latin script ('Latn') as used in Serbia and Montenegro ('CS').
"es-419" represents Spanish ('es') as used in the UN-defined Latin America and Caribbean region ('419').
The following rules apply to the variant subtags:
Variant subtag records in the language subtag registry may include one or more 'Prefix' fields, which indicates the language tag or tags that would make a suitable prefix (with other subtags, as appropriate) in forming a language tag with the variant. For example, the subtag 'scouse' has a Prefix of "en", making it suitable to form language tags such as "en-scouse" and "en-GB-scouse", but not suitable for use in a tag such as "zh-scouse" or "it-GB-scouse".
"en-scouse" represents the Scouse dialect of English.
"de-CH-1996" represents German as used in Switzerland and as written using the spelling reform beginning in the year 1996 C.E.
Most variants that share a prefix are mutually exclusive. For example, the German orthographic variantions '1996' and '1901' should not be used in the same tag, as they represent the dates of different spelling reforms. A variant that may be used in combination with another variant should include a 'Prefix' field in its registry record that lists that other variant. For example, if another German variant 'example' were created that made sense to use with '1996', then 'example' should include two Prefix fields: "de" and "de-1996".
The following rules apply to extensions:
For example, if the prefix singleton 'r' and the shown subtags were defined, then the following tag would be a valid example: "en-Latn-GB-boont-r-extended-sequence-x-private"
The following rules apply to private-use subtags:
For example: Users who wished to utilize SIL Ethnologue for identification might agree to exchange tags such as "az-Arab-x-AZE-derbend". This example contains two private-use subtags. The first is 'AZE' and the second is 'derbend'.
Existing IANA-registered language tags from RFC 1766 and/or RFC 3066 maintain their validity. IANA will maintain these tags in the registry under either the "grandfathered" or "redundant" type. For more information see Section 3.7 (Initialization of the Registry).
It is important to note that all language tags formed under the guidelines in this document were either legal, well-formed tags or could have been registered under RFC 3066.
Implementations may wish to express their level of conformance with the rules and practices described in this document. There are generally two classes of conforming implementations: "well-formed" processors and "validating" processors. Claims of conformance SHOULD explicitly reference one of these definitions.
An implementation that claims to check for well-formed language tags MUST:
Well-formed processors are strongly encouraged to implement the canonicalization rules contained in Section 4.3 (Canonicalization of Language Tags).
An implementation that claims to be validating MUST:
This section defines the Language Subtag Registry and the maintenance and update procedures associated with it.
The language subtag registry will be maintained so that, except for extension subtags, it is possible to validate all of the subtags that appear in a language tag under the provisions of this document or its revisions or successors. In addition, the meaning of the various subtags will be unambiguous and stable over time. (The meaning of private-use subtags, of course, is not defined by the IANA registry.)
The registry defined under this document contains a comprehensive list of all of the subtags valid in language tags. This allows implementers a straightforward and reliable way to validate language tags.
The IANA Language Subtag Registry ("the registry") will consist of a text file that is machine readable in the format described in this section, plus copies of the registration forms approved by the Language Subtag Reviewer in accordance with the process described in Section 3.4 (Registration Procedure for Subtags). With the exception of the registration forms for grandfathered and redundant tags, no registration records will be maintained for the initial set of subtags.
The registry will be in a modified record-jar format text file  (Raymond, E., “The Art of Unix Programming,” 2003.). Lines are limited to 72 characters, including all whitespace.
Records are separated by lines containing only the sequence "%%" (%x25.25).
Each field can be viewed as a single, logical line of ASCII characters, comprising a field-name and a field-body separated by a COLON character (%x3A). For convenience, the field-body portion of this conceptual entity can be split into a multiple-line representation; this is called "folding". The format of the registry is described by the following ABNF (per  (Crocker, D. and P. Overell, “Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF,” March 2005.)):
registry = record *("%%" CRLF record) record = 1*( field-name *SP ":" *SP field-body CRLF ) field-name = *(ALPHA / DIGIT / "-") field-body = *(ASCCHAR/LWSP) ASCCHAR = %x21-25 / %x27-7E / UNICHAR ; Note: AMPERSAND is %x26 UNICHAR = "&#x" 2*6HEXDIG ";"
| record-jar ABNF |
The sequence '..' (%x2E.2E) in a field-body denotes a range of values. Such a range represents all subtags of the same length that are alphabetically within that range, including the values explicitly mentioned. For example 'a..c' denotes the values 'a', 'b', and 'c'.
Characters from outside the US-ASCII repertoire, as well as the AMPERSAND character ("&", %x26) when it occurs in a field-body are represented by a "Numeric Character Reference" using hexadecimal notation in the style used by XML 1.0 (Bray (et al), T., “Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0,” 02 2004.) (see http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml/#dt-charref). This consists of the sequence "&#x" (%x26.23.78) followed by a hexadecimal representation of the character's code point in ISO/IEC 10646 (International Organization for Standardization, “ISO/IEC 10646-1:2000. Information technology — Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set (UCS) — Part 1: Architecture and Basic Multilingual Plane and ISO/IEC 10646-2:2001. Information technology — Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set (UCS) — Part 2: Supplementary Planes, as, from time to time, amended, replaced by a new edition or expanded by the addition of new parts,” 2000.) followed by a closing semicolon (%x3B). For example, the EURO SIGN, U+20AC, would be represented by the sequence "€". Note that the hexadecimal notation may have between two and six digits.
All fields whose field-body contains a date value use the "full-date" format specified in RFC 3339 (Klyne, G. and C. Newman, “Date and Time on the Internet: Timestamps,” July 2002.). For example: "2004-06-28" represents June 28, 2004 in the Gregorian calendar.
The first record in the file contains the single field whose field-name is "File-Date". The field-body of this record contains the last modification date of this copy of the registry, making it possible to compare different versions of the registry. The registry on the IANA website is the most current. Versions with an older date than that one are not up-to-date.
File-Date: 2004-06-28 %%
Subsequent records represent subtags in the registry. Each of the fields in each record MUST occur no more than once, unless otherwise noted below. Each record MUST contain the following fields:
The 'Subtag' or 'Tag' field MUST use lowercase letters to form the subtag or tag, with two exceptions. Subtags whose 'Type' field is 'script' (in other words, subtags defined by ISO 15924) MUST use titlecase. Subtags whose 'Type' field is 'region' (in other words, subtags defined by ISO 3166) MUST use uppercase. These exceptions mirror the use of case in the underlying standards.
The field 'Description' MAY appear more than one time. At least one of the 'Description' fields must contain a description of the tag being registered written or transcribed into the Latin script; the same or additional fields may also include a description in a non-Latin script. The 'Description' field is used for identification purposes and should not be taken to represent the actual native name of the language or variation or to be in any particular language. Most descriptions are taken directly from source standards such as ISO 639 or ISO 3166.
Note: Descriptions in registry entries that correspond to ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166 or UN M.49 codes are intended only to indicate the meaning of that identifier as defined in the source standard at the time it was added to the registry. The description does not replace the content of the source standard itself. The descriptions are not intended to be the English localized names for the subtags. Localization or translation of language tag and subtag descriptions is out of scope of this document.
Each record MAY also contain the following fields:
The field 'Deprecated' MAY be added to any record via the maintenance process described in Section 3.2 (Maintenance of the Registry) or via the registration process described in Section 3.4 (Registration Procedure for Subtags). Usually the addition of a 'Deprecated' field is due to the action of one of the standards bodies, such as ISO 3166, withdrawing a code. In some historical cases it may not have been possible to reconstruct the original deprecation date. For these cases, an approximate date appears in the registry. Although valid in language tags, subtags and tags with a 'Deprecated' field are deprecated and validating processors SHOULD NOT generate these subtags. Note that a record that contains a 'Deprecated' field and no corresponding 'Preferred-Value' field has no replacement mapping.
Thie field 'Preferred-Value' contains a mapping between the record in which it appears and a tag or subtag which should be preferred when selected language tags. These values form three groups:
ISO 639 language codes which were later withdrawn in favor of other codes. These values are mostly a historical curiosity.
ISO 3166 region codes which have been withdrawn in favor of a new code. This sometimes happens when a country changes its name or administration in such a way that warrents a new region code.
Tags grandfathered from RFC 3066. In many cases these tags have become obsolete because the values they represent were later encoded by ISO 639.
Records that contain a 'Preferred-Value' field MUST also have a 'Deprecated' field. This field contains a date of deprecation. Thus a language tag processor can use the registry to construct the valid, non-deprecated set of subtags for a given date. In addition, for any given tag, a processor can construct the set of valid language tags that correspond to that tag for all dates up to the date of the registry. The ability to do these mappings may be beneficial to applications that are matching, selecting, for filtering content based on its language tags.
It should be noted that 'Preferred-Value' mappings in records of type 'region' may not represent exactly the same meaning as the original value. There are many reasons that a country code may be changed and the effect this has on the formation of language tags may depend on the nature of the change in question.
In particular, the 'Preferred-Value' field does not imply that content formerly tagged with one tag should be retagged.
The field 'Preferred-Value' MUST NOT be modified once created in the registry. The field MAY be added to records of type "grandfathered" and "region" according to the rules in Section 3.2 (Maintenance of the Registry). Otherwise the field MUST NOT be added to any record already in the registry.
The 'Preferred-Value' field in records of type "grandfathered" and "redundant" contains whole language tags that are strongly RECOMMENDED for use in place of the record's value. In many cases the mappings were created by deprecation of the tags during the period before this document was adopted. For example, the tag "no-nyn" was deprecated in favor of the ISO 639-1 defined language code 'nn'.
Records of type 'variant' MAY have more than one field of type 'Prefix'. Additional fields of this type MAY be added to a 'variant' record via the registration process.
Records of type 'extlang' MUST have exactly one 'Prefix' field.
The field-value of the 'Prefix' field consists of a language tag whose subtags are appropriate to use with this subtag. For example, the variant subtag 'scouse' has a recommended prefix of "en". This means that tags starting with the prefix "en-" are most appropriate with this subtag, so "en-Latn-scouse" and "en-GB-scouse" are both acceptable, while the tag "fr-scouse" is an inappropriate choice.
The field of type 'Prefix' MUST NOT be removed from any record. The field-value for this type of field MUST NOT be modified.
The field 'Comments' MAY appear more than once per record. This field MAY be inserted or changed via the registration process and no guarantee of stability is provided. The content of this field is not restricted, except by the need to register the information, the suitability of the request, and by reasonable practical size limitations. Long screeds about a particular subtag are frowned upon.
The field 'Suppress-Script' MUST only appear in records whose 'Type' field-value is 'language'. This field may appear at most one time in a record. This field indicates a script used to write the overwhelming majority of documents for the given language and which therefore adds no distinguishing information to a language tag. It helps ensure greater compatibility between the language tags generated according to the rules in this document and language tags and tag processors or consumers based on RFC 3066. For example, virtually all Icelandic documents are written in the Latin script, making the subtag 'Latn' redundant in the tag "is-Latn".
For examples of registry entries and their format, see Appendix C (Example Registry).
Maintenance of the registry requires that as codes are assigned or withdrawn by ISO 639, ISO 15924, and ISO 3166, the Language Subtag Reviewer will evaluate each change, determine whether it conflicts with existing registry entries, and submit the information to IANA for inclusion in the registry. If an change takes place and the Language Subtag Reviewer does not do this in a timely manner, then any interested party may use the procedure in Section 3.4 (Registration Procedure for Subtags) to register the appropriate update.
Note: The redundant and grandfathered entries together are the complete list of tags registered under RFC 3066 (Alvestrand, H., “Tags for the Identification of Languages,” January 2001.). The redundant tags are those that can now be formed using the subtags defined in the registry together with the rules of Section 2.2 (Language Subtag Sources and Interpretation). The grandfathered entries are those that can never be legal under those same provisions.
The set of redundant and grandfathered tags is permanent and stable: no new entries will be added and none of the entries will be removed. Records of type 'grandfathered' may have their type converted to 'redundant': see Section 3.7 (Initialization of the Registry) for more information.
RFC 3066 tags that were deprecated prior to the adoption of this document are part of the list of grandfathered tags and their component subtags were not included as registered variants (although they remain eligible for registration). For example, the tag "art-lojban" was deprecated in favor of the language subtag 'jbo'.
The Language Subtag Reviewer MUST ensure that new subtags meet the requirements in Section 4.1 (Choice of Language Tag) or submit an appropriate alternate subtag as described in that section. If a change or addition to the registry is required, the Language Subtag Reviewer will prepare the complete record, including all fields, and forward it to IANA for insertion into the registry. If this represents a new subtag, then the message will indicate that this represents an INSERTION of a record. If this represents a change to an existing subtag, then the message must indicate that this represents a MODIFICATION, as shown in the following example:
LANGUAGE SUBTAG MODIFICATION File-Date: 2005-01-02 %% Type: variant Subtag: nedis Description: Natisone dialect Description: Nadiza dialect Added: 2003-10-09 Prefix: sl Comments: This is a comment shown as an example. %%
| Figure 5 |
Whenever an entry is created or modified in the registry, the 'File-Date' record at the start of the registry is updated to reflect the most recent modification date in the RFC 3339 (Klyne, G. and C. Newman, “Date and Time on the Internet: Timestamps,” July 2002.) "full-date" format.
Values in the 'Subtag' field must be lowercase except as provided for in Section 3.1 (Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry).
The stability of entries and their meaning in the registry is critical to the long term stability of language tags. The rules in this section guarantee that a specific language tag's meaning is stable over time and will not change.
These rules specifically deal with how changes to codes (including withdrawal and deprecation of codes) maintained by ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166, and UN M.49 are reflected in the IANA Language Subtag Registry. Assignments to the IANA Language Subtag Registry MUST follow the following stability rules:
The procedure given here MUST be used by anyone who wants to use a subtag not currently in the IANA Language Subtag Registry.
Only subtags of type 'language' and 'variant' will be considered for independent registration of new subtags. Handling of subtags required for stability and subtags required to keep the registry synchronized with ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166, and UN M.49 within the limits defined by this document are described in Section 3.2 (Maintenance of the Registry). Stability provisions are described in Section 3.3 (Stability of IANA Registry Entries).
This procedure MAY also be used to register or alter the information for the "Description", "Comments", "Deprecated", or "Prefix" fields in a subtag's record as described in Figure 8 (Example of the Registry Format). Changes to all other fields in the IANA registry are NOT permitted.
Registering a new subtag or requesting modifications to an existing tag or subtag starts with the requster filling out the registration form reproduced below. Note that each response is not limited in size and should take the room necessary to adequately describe the registration. The fields in the "Record Requested" section SHOULD follow the requirements in Section 3.1 (Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry).
LANGUAGE SUBTAG REGISTRATION FORM 1. Name of requester: 2. E-mail address of requester: 3. Record Requested: Type: Subtag: Description: Prefix: Preferred-Value: Deprecated: Suppress-Script: Comments: 4. Intended meaning of the subtag: 5. Reference to published description of the language (book or article): 6. Any other relevant information:
| Figure 6 |
The subtag registration form MUST be sent to <firstname.lastname@example.org> for a two week review period before it can be submitted to IANA. (This is an open list. Requests to be added should be sent to <email@example.com>.)
Variant and extlang subtags are always registered for use with a particular range of language tags. For example, the subtag 'scouse' is intended for use with language tags that start with the primary language subtag "en", since Scouse is a dialect of English. Thus the subtag 'scouse' could be included in tags such as "en-Latn-scouse" or "en-GB-scouse". This information is stored in the "Prefix" field in the registry. Variant registration requests are REQUIRED to include at least one "Prefix" field in the registration form.
The 'Prefix' field for a given registered subtag will be maintained in the IANA registry as a guide to usage. Additional prefixes MAY be added by filing an additional registration form. In that form, the "Any other relevant information:" field should indicate that it is the addition of a prefix.
Requests to add a prefix to a variant subtag that imply a different semantic meaning will probably be rejected. For example, a request to add the prefix "de" to the subtag 'nedis' so that the tag "de-nedis" represented some German dialect would be rejected. The 'nedis' subtag represents a particular Slovenian dialect and the additional registration would change the semantic meaning assigned to the subtag. A separate subtag should be proposed instead.
The 'Description' field must contain a description of the tag being registered written or transcribed into the Latin script; it may also include a description in a non-Latin script. Non-ASCII characters must be escaped using the syntax described in Section 3.1 (Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry). The 'Description' field is used for identification purposes and should not be taken to represent the actual native name of the language or variation or to be in any particular language.
While the 'Description' field itself is not guaranteed to be stable and errata corrections may be undertaken from time to time, attempts to provide translations or transcriptions of entries in the registry itself will probably be frowned upon by the community or rejected outright, as changes of this nature may impact the provisions in Section 3.3 (Stability of IANA Registry Entries).
The Language Subtag Reviewer is responsible for responding to requests for the registration of subtags through the registration process and is appointed by the IESG.
When the two week period has passed the Language Subtag Reviewer either forwards the record to be inserted or modified to firstname.lastname@example.org according to the procedure described in Section 3.2 (Maintenance of the Registry), or rejects the request because of significant objections raised on the list or due to problems with constraints in this document (which should be explicitly cited). The reviewer may also extend the review period in two week increments to permit further discussion. The reviewer must indicate on the list whether the registration has been accepted, rejected, or extended following each two week period.
Note that the reviewer can raise objections on the list if he or she so desires. The important thing is that the objection must be made publicly.
The applicant is free to modify a rejected application with additional information and submit it again; this restarts the two week comment period.
Decisions made by the reviewer may be appealed to the IESG [RFC 2028] (Hovey, R. and S. Bradner, “The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process,” October 1996.) under the same rules as other IETF decisions [RFC 2026] (Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” October 1996.).
All approved registration forms are available online in the directory http://www.iana.org/numbers.html under "languages".
Updates or changes to existing records, including previous registrations, follow the same procedure as new registrations. The Language Subtag Reviewer decides whether there is consensus to update the registration following the two week review period; normally objections by the original registrant will carry extra weight in forming such a consensus.
Registrations are permanent and stable. Once registered, subtags will not be removed from the registry and will remain a valid way in which to specify a specific language or variant.
Note: The purpose of the "Description" in the registration form is intended as an aid to people trying to verify whether a language is registered or what language or language variation a particular subtag refers to. In most cases, reference to an authoritative grammar or dictionary of that language will be useful; in cases where no such work exists, other well known works describing that language or in that language may be appropriate. The subtag reviewer decides what constitutes "good enough" reference material. This requirement is not intended to exclude particular languages or dialects due to the size of the speaker population or lack of a standardized orthography. Minority languages will be considered equally on their own merits.
Possibilities for registration of subtags or information about subtags include:
This document leaves the decision on what subtags or changes to subtags are appropriate (or not) to the registration process described in Section 3.4 (Registration Procedure for Subtags).
Note: four character primary language subtags are reserved to allow for the possibility of alpha4 codes in some future addition to the ISO 639 family of standards.
ISO 639 defines a maintenance agency for additions to and changes in the list of languages in ISO 639. This agency is:
International Information Centre for Terminology (Infoterm)
Aichholzgasse 6/12, AT-1120
Phone: +43 1 26 75 35 Ext. 312 Fax: +43 1 216 32 72
ISO 639-2 defines a maintenance agency for additions to and changes in the list of languages in ISO 639-2. This agency is:
Library of Congress
Network Development and MARC Standards Office
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Phone: +1 202 707 6237 Fax: +1 202 707 0115
The maintenance agency for ISO 3166 (country codes) is:
ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency
c/o International Organization for Standardization
Case postale 56
CH-1211 Geneva 20 Switzerland
Phone: +41 22 749 72 33 Fax: +41 22 749 73 49
The registration authority for ISO 15924 (script codes) is:
Unicode Consortium Box 391476
Mountain View, CA 94039-1476, USA
The Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat maintains the Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use and can be reached at:
Statistical Services Branch
United Nations, Room DC2-1620
New York, NY 10017, USA
Extension subtags are those introduced by single-letter subtags other than 'x'. They are reserved for the generation of identifiers which contain a language component, and are compatible with applications that understand language tags. For example, they might be used to define locale identifiers, which are generally based on language.
The structure and form of extensions are defined by this document so that implementations can be created that are forward compatible with applications that may be created using single-letter subtags in the future. In addition, defining a mechanism for maintaining single-letter subtags will lend to the stability of this document by reducing the likely need for future revisions or updates.
Allocation of a single-letter subtag shall take the form of an RFC defining the name, purpose, processes, and procedures for maintaining the subtags. The maintaining or registering authority, including name, contact email, discussion list email, and URL location of the registry must be indicated clearly in the RFC. The RFC MUST specify or include each of the following:
IANA will maintain a registry of allocated single-letter (singleton) subtags. This registry will use the record-jar format described by the ABNF in Section 3.1 (Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry). Upon publication of an extension as an RFC, the maintaining authority defined in the RFC must forward this registration form to email@example.com, who will forward the request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The maintaining authority of the extension MUST maintain the accuracy of the record by sending an updated full copy of the record to email@example.com with the subject line "LANGUAGE TAG EXTENSION UPDATE" whenever content changes. Only the 'Comments', 'Contact_Email', 'Mailing_List', and 'URL' fields may be modified in these updates.
Failure to maintain this record, the corresponding registry, or meet other conditions imposed by this section of this document may be appealed to the IESG [RFC 2028] (Hovey, R. and S. Bradner, “The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process,” October 1996.) under the same rules as other IETF decisions (see  (Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” October 1996.)) and may result in the authority to maintain the extension being withdrawn or reassigned by the IESG.
%% Identifier: Description: Comments: Added: RFC: Authority: Contact_Email: Mailing_List: URL: %%
| Figure 7: Format of Records in the Language Tag Extensions Registry |
'Identifier' contains the single letter subtag (singleton) assigned to the extension. The Internet-Draft submitted to define the extension should specific which letter to use, although the IESG may change the assignment when approving the RFC.
'Description' contains the name and description of the extension.
'Comments' is an optional field and may contain a broader description of the extension.
'Added' contains the date the RFC was published in the "full-date" format specified in RFC 3339 (Klyne, G. and C. Newman, “Date and Time on the Internet: Timestamps,” July 2002.). For example: 2004-06-28 represents June 28, 2004, in the Gregorian calendar.
'RFC' contains the RFC number assigned to the extension.
'Authority' contains the name of the maintaining authority for the extension.
'Contact_Email' contains the email address used to contact the maintaining authority.
'Mailing_List' contains the URL or subscription email address of the mailing list used by the maintaining authority.
'URL' contains the URL of the registry for this extension.
The determination of whether an Internet-Draft meets the above conditions and the decision to grant or withhold such authority rests solely with the IESG, and is subject to the normal review and appeals process associated with the RFC process.
Extension authors are strongly cautioned that many (including most well-formed) processors will be unaware of any special relationships or meaning inherent in the order of extension subtags. Extension authors SHOULD avoid subtag relationships or canonicalization mechanisms that interfere with matching or with length restrictions that may exist in common protocols where the extension is used. In particular, applications may truncate the subtags in doing matching or in fitting into limited lengths, so it is RECOMMENDED that the most significant information be in the most significant (left-most) subtags, and that the specification gracefully handle truncated subtags.
When a language tag is to be used in a specific, known, protocol, it is RECOMMENDED that that the language tag not contain extensions not supported by that protocol. In addition, it should be noted that some protocols may impose upper limits on the length of the strings used to store or transport the language tag.
Upon publication of this document as a BCP, the Language Subtag Registry must be created and populated with the initial set of subtags. This includes converting the entries from the existing IANA language tag registry defined by RFC 3066 to the new format. This section defines the process for defining the new registry and performing the conversion of the old registry.
The impact on the IANA maintainers of the registry of this conversion will be a small increase in the frequency of new entries. The initial set of records represents no impact on IANA, since the work to create it will be performed externally (as defined in this section). Future work will be limited to inserting or replacing whole records preformatted for IANA by the Language Subtag Reviewer.
The initial registry will be created by the LTRU working group. Using the instructions in this document, the working group will prepare an Informational RFC by creating a series of Internet-Drafts containing the prototype registry according to the rules in Sections 4.2.2 and 4.2.3 and subject to IESG review as described in Section 6.1.1 of RFC 2026 (Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” October 1996.).
When the Internet-Draft containing the prototype registry has been approved by the IESG for publication as an RFC, the document will be forwarded to IANA, which will post the contents of the new registry on-line.
Tags in the RFC 3066 registry that are not deprecated that consist entirely of subtags that are valid under this document and which have the correct form and format for tags defined by this document are superseded by this document. Such tags are placed in records of type 'redundant' in the registry. For example, "zh-Hant" is now defined by this document.
All other tags in the RFC 3066 registry that are deprecated will be maintained as grandfathered entries. The record for the grandfathered entry will contain a 'Deprecated' field with the most appropriate date that can be determined for when the record was deprecated. The 'Comments' field will contain the reason for the deprecation. The 'Preferred-Value' field will contain the tag that replaces the value. For example, the tag "art-lojban" is deprecated and will be placed in the grandfathered section. It's 'Deprecated' field will contain the deprecation date (in this case "2003-09-02") and the 'Preferred-Value' field the value "jbo".
Tags that are not deprecated and which contain subtags which are consistent with registration under the guidelines in this document will not automatically have a new subtag registration created for each eligible subtag. Interrested parties may use the registration process in Section 3.4 (Registration Procedure for Subtags) to register these subtags. If all of the subtags in the original tag become fully defined by the resulting registrations, then the original tag is superseded by this document. Such tags will have their record changed from type 'grandfathered' to type 'redundant' in the registry. For example, the subtag 'boont' could be registered, resulting in the change of the grandfathered tag "en-boont" to type redundant in the registry.
Tags that contain one or more subtags that do not match the valid registration pattern and which are not otherwise defined by this document will have records of type 'grandfathered' created in the registry. These records cannot become type 'redundant', but may have a 'Deprecated' and 'Prefered-Value' field added to them if a subtag assignment or combination of assignments renders the tag obsolete.
There will be a reasonable period in which the community may comment on the proposed list entries, which SHALL be no less than four weeks in length. At the completion of this period, the chair(s) will notify firstname.lastname@example.org and the ltru and ietf-languages mail lists that the task is complete and forward the necessary materials to IANA for publication.
Registrations that are in process under the rules defined in RFC 3066 MAY be completed under the former rules, at the discretion of the language tag reviewer. Any new registrations submitted after the request for conversion of the registry MUST be rejected.
All existing RFC 3066 language tag registrations will be maintained in perpetuity.
Users of tags that are grandfathered should consider registering appropriate subtags in the IANA subtag registry (but are not required to).
UN numeric codes assigned to 'macro-geographical (continental)' or sub-regions not associated with an assigned ISO 3166 alpha-2 code are defined in the IANA registry and are valid for use in language tags. These codes MUST be added to the initial version of the registry. The UN numeric codes for 'economic groupings' or 'other groupings', and the alphanumeric codes in Appendix X of the UN document MUST NOT be added to the registry.
When creating records for ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO3166, and UN M.49 codes, the following criteria SHALL be applied to the inclusion, preferred value, and deprecation of codes:
For each standard, the date of the standard referenced in RFC 1766 is selected as the starting date. Codes that were valid on that date in the selected standard are added to the registry. Codes that were previously assigned by but which were vacated or withdrawn before that date are not added to the registry. For each successive change to the standard, any additional assignments are added to the registry. Values that are withdrawn are marked as deprecated, but not removed. Changes in meaning or assignment of a subtag are permitted during this process (for example, the ISO 3166 code 'CS' was originally assigned to 'Czechoslovakia' and is now assigned to 'Serbia and Montenegro'). This continues up to the date that this document was adopted. The resulting set of records is added to the registry. Future changes or additions to this portion of the registry are governed by the provisions of this document.
This section addresses how to use the registry with the language tag format to choose, form and process language tags.
One may occasionally be faced with several possible tags for the same body of text.
Interoperability is best served when all users use the same language tag in order to represent the same language. If an application has requirements that make the rules here inapplicable, then that application risks damaging interoperability. It is strongly RECOMMENDED that users not define their own rules for language tag choice.
Of particular note, many applications can benefit from the use of script subtags in language tags, as long as the use is consistent for a given context. Script subtags were not formally defined in RFC 3066 and their use may affect matching and subtag identification by implementations of RFC 3066, as these subtags appear between the primary language and region subtags. For example, if a user requests content in an implementation of Section 2.5 of RFC 3066 (Alvestrand, H., “Tags for the Identification of Languages,” January 2001.) using the language range "en-US", content labeled "en-Latn-US" will not match the request. Therefore it is important to know when script subtags will customarily be used and when they should not be used. In the registry, the Suppress-Script field helps ensure greater compatibility between the language tags generated according to the rules in this document and language tags and tag processors or consumers based on RFC 3066 by defining when users should generally not include a script subtag with a particular primary language subtag.
Extended language subtags (type 'extlang' in the registry, see Section 3.1 (Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry)) also appear between the primary language and region subtags and are reserved for future standardization. Applications may benefit from their judicious use in forming language tags in the future and similar recommendations are expected to apply to their use as apply to script subtags.
Standards, protocols and applications that reference this document normatively but apply different rules to the ones given in this section MUST specify how the procedure varies from the one given here.
The choice of subtags used to form a language tag should be guided by the following rules:
To ensure consistent backward compatibility, this document contains several provisions to account for potential instability in the standards used to define the subtags that make up language tags. These provisions mean that no language tag created under the rules in this document will become obsolete.
The language tag always defines a language as spoken (or written, signed or otherwise signaled) by human beings for communication of information to other human beings. Computer languages such as programming languages are explicitly excluded.
If a language tag B contains language tag A as a prefix, then B is typically "narrower" or "more specific" than A. For example, "zh-Hant-TW" is more specific than "zh-Hant".
This relationship is not guaranteed in all cases: specifically, languages that begin with the same sequence of subtags are NOT guaranteed to be mutually intelligible, although they may be. For example, the tag "az" shares a prefix with both "az-Latn" (Azerbaijani written using the Latin script) and "az-Cyrl" (Azerbaijani written using the Cyrillic script). A person fluent in one script may not be able to read the other, even though the text might be identical. Content tagged as "az" most probably is written in just one script and thus might not be intelligible to a reader familiar with the other script.
The relationship between the tag and the information it relates to is defined by the standard describing the context in which it appears. Accordingly, this section can only give possible examples of its usage.
Since a particular language tag may be used in many processes, language tags SHOULD always be created or generated in a canonical form.
A language tag is in canonical form when:
Example: The language tag "en-A-aaa-B-ccc-bbb-x-xyz" is in canonical form, while "en-B-ccc-bbb-A-aaa-X-xyz" is well-formed but not in canonical form.
Example: The language tag "en-NH" (English as used in the New Hebrides) is not canonical because the 'NH' subtag has a canonical mapping to 'VU' (Vanuatu), although the tag "en-NH" maintains its validity.
Canonicalization of language tags does not imply anything about the use of upper or lowercase letters when processing or comparing subtags (and as described in Section 2.1 (Syntax)). All comparisons MUST be performed in a case-insensitive manner.
When performing canonicalization of language tags, processors MAY optionally regularize the case of the subtags, following the case used in the registry. Note that this corresponds to the following casing rules: uppercase all non-initial two-letter subtags; titlecase all non-initial four-letter subtags; lowercase everything else.
Note: Case folding of ASCII letters in certain locales, unless carefully handled, may produce non-ASCII character values. The Unicode Character Database file "SpecialCasing.txt" defines the specific cases that are known to cause problems with this. In particular, the letter 'i' (U+0069) in Turkish and Azerbaijani is uppercased to U+0130 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER I WITH DOT ABOVE). Implementers should specify a locale-neutral casing operation to ensure that case folding of subtags does not produce this value, which is illegal in language tags. For example, if one were to uppercase the region subtag 'in' using Turkish locale rules, the sequence U+0130 U+004E would result instead of the expected 'IN'.
Note: if the field 'Deprecated' appears in a registry record without an accompanying 'Preferred-Value' field, then that tag or subtag is deprecated without a replacement. Validating processors SHOULD NOT generate tags that include these values, although the values are canonical when they appear in a language tag.
An extension MUST define any relationships that may exist between the various subtags in the extension and thus MAY define an alternate canonicalization scheme for the extension's subtags. Extensions MAY define how the order of the extension's subtags are interpreted. For example, an extension could define that its subtags are in canonical order when the subtags are placed into ASCII order: that is, "en-a-aaa-bbb-ccc" instead of "en-a-ccc-bbb-aaa". Another extension might define that the order of the subtags influences their semantic meaning (so that "en-b-ccc-bbb-aaa" has a different value from "en-b-aaa-bbb-ccc"). However, extension specifications SHOULD be designed so that they are tolerant of the typical processes described in Section 3.6 (Extensions and Extensions Namespace).
Private-use subtags require private agreement between the parties that intend to use or exchange language tags that use them and great caution should be used in employing them in content or protocols intended for general use. Private-use subtags are simply useless for information exchange without prior arrangement.
The value and semantic meaning of private-use tags and of the subtags used within such a language tag are not defined by this document.
The use of subtags defined in the IANA registry as having a specific private use meaning convey more information that a purely private use tag prefixed by the singleton subtag 'x'. For applications this additional information may be useful.
For example, the region subtags 'AA', 'ZZ' and in the ranges 'QM'-'QZ' and 'XA'-'XZ' (derived from ISO 3166 private use codes) may be used to form a language tag. A tag such as "zh-Hans-XQ" conveys a great deal of public, interchangeable information about the language material (that it is Chinese in the simplified Chinese script and is suitable for some geographic region 'XQ'). While the precise geographic region is not known outside of private agreement, the tag conveys far more information than an opaque tag such as "x-someLang", which contains no information about the language subtag or script subtag outside of the private agreement.
However, in some cases content tagged with private use subtags may interact with other systems in a different and possibly unsuitable manner compared to tags that use opaque, privately defined subtags, so the choice of the best approach may depend on the particular domain in question.
This section deals with the processes and requirements necessary for IANA to undertake to maintain the rsubtag and extension registries as defined by this document and in accordance with the requirements of RFC 2434 (Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, “Guidelines for Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs,” October 1998.).
The impact on the IANA maintainers of the two registries defined by this document will be a small increase in the frequency of new entries or updates.
Upon adoption of this document, the process described in Section 3.7 (Initialization of the Registry) will be used to generate the initial Language Subtag Registry. The initial set of records represents no impact on IANA, since the work to create it will be performed externally (as defined in that section). The new registry will be listed under "Language Tags" at http://www.iana.org/numbers.html. The existing directory of registration forms and RFC 3066 registrations will be relabeled as "Language Tags (Obsolete)" and maintained (but not added to or modified).
Future work on the Language Subtag Registry will be limited to inserting or replacing whole records preformatted for IANA by the Language Subtag Reviewer as described in Section 3.2 (Maintenance of the Registry) of this document. Each record will be sent to email@example.com with a subject line indicating whether the enclosed record is an insertion (of a new record) or a replacment of an existing record which has a Type and Subtag (or Tag) field that exactly matches the record sent. Records cannot be deleted from the registry.
The Language Tag Extensions registry will also be generated and sent to IANA as described in Section 3.6 (Extensions and Extensions Namespace). This registry may contain at most 35 records and thus changes to this registry are expected to be very infrequent.
Future work by IANA on the Language Tag Extensions Registry is limited to two cases. First, the IESG may request that new records be inserted into this registry from time to time. These requests will include the record to insert in the exact format described in Section 3.6 (Extensions and Extensions Namespace). In addition, there may be occasional requests from the maintaining authority for a specific extension to update the contact information or URLs in the record. These requests MUST include the complete, updated record. IANA is not responsible for validating the information provided, only that it is properly formatted. It should reasonably be seen to come from the maintaining authority named in the record present in the registry.
Language tags used in content negotiation, like any other information exchanged on the Internet, may be a source of concern because they may be used to infer the nationality of the sender, and thus identify potential targets for surveillance.
This is a special case of the general problem that anything sent is visible to the receiving party and possibly to third parties as well. It is useful to be aware that such concerns can exist in some cases.
The evaluation of the exact magnitude of the threat, and any possible countermeasures, is left to each application protocol (see BCP 72, RFC 3552 (Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, “Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations,” July 2003.) for best current practice guidance on security threats and defenses).
Since there is no limit to the number of variant, private use, and extension subtags, and consequently no limit on the possible length of a tag, implementations need to guard against buffer overflow attacks. See section Section 2.1.1 (Length Considerations) for details on language tag truncation, which can occur as a consequence of defenses against buffer overflow.
Although the specification of valid subtags for an extension (see: Section 3.6 (Extensions and Extensions Namespace)) MUST be available over the Internet, implementations SHOULD NOT mechanically depend on it being always accessible, to prevent denial-of-service attacks.
The syntax in this document requires that language tags use only the characters A-Z, a-z, 0-9, and HYPHEN-MINUS, which are present in most character sets, so the composition of language tags should not have any character set issues.
Rendering of characters based on the content of a language tag is not addressed in this memo. Historically, some languages have relied on the use of specific character sets or other information in order to infer how a specific character should be rendered (notably this applies to language and culture specific variations of Han ideographs as used in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean). When language tags are applied to spans of text, rendering engines may use that information in deciding which font to use in the absence of other information, particularly where languages with distinct writing traditions use the same characters.
The main goals for this revision of language tags were the following:
Compatibility. All valid RFC 3066 language tags (including those in the IANA registry) remain valid in this specification. Thus there is complete backward compatibility of this specification with existing content. In addition, this document defines language tags in such as way as to ensure future compatibility, and processors based solely on the RFC 3066 ABNF (such as those described in XML Schema version 1.0 (Biron, P., Ed. and A. Malhotra, Ed., “XML Schema Part 2: Datatypes Second Edition,” 10 2004.)) will be able to process tags described by this document.
Stability. Because of the changes in underlying ISO standards, a valid RFC 3066 language tag may become invalid (or have its meaning change) at a later date. With so much of the world's computing infrastructure dependent on language tags, this is simply unacceptable: it invalidates content that may have an extensive shelf-life. In this specification, once a language tag is valid, it remains valid forever. Previously, there was no way to determine when two tags were equivalent. This specification provides a stable mechanism for doing so, through the use of canonical forms. These are also stable, so that implementations can depend on the use of canonical forms to assess equivalency.
Validity. The structure of language tags defined by this document makes it possible to determine if a particular tag is well-formed without regard for the actual content or "meaning" of the tag as a whole. This is important because the registry and underlying standards change over time. In addition, it must be possible to determine if a tag is valid (or not) for a given point in time in order to provide reproducible, testable results. This process must not be error-prone; otherwise even intelligent people will generate implementations that give different results. This specification provides for that by having a single data file, with specific versioning information, so that the validity of language tags at any point in time can be precisely determined (instead of interpolating values from many separate sources).
Extensibility. It is important to be able to differentiate between written forms of language -- for many implementations this is more important than distinguishing between spoken variants of a language. Languages are written in a wide variety of different scripts, so this document provides for the generative use of ISO 15924 script codes. Like the generative use of ISO language and country codes in RFC 3066, this allows combinations to be produced without resorting to the registration process. The addition of UN codes provides for the generation of language tags with regional scope, which is also required for information technology.
The recast of the registry from containing whole language tags to subtags is a key part of this. An important feature of RFC 3066 was that it allowed generative use of subtags. This allows people to meaningfully use generated tags, without the delays in registering whole tags, and the burden on the registry of having to supply all of the combinations that people may find useful.
Because of the widespread use of language tags, it is potentially disruptive to have periodic revisions of the core specification, despite demonstrated need. The extension mechanism provides for a way for independent RFCs to define extensions to language tags. These extensions have a very constrained, well-defined structure to prevent extensions from interfering with implementations of language tags defined in this document. The document also anticipates features of ISO 639-3 with the addition of the extended language subtags, as well as the possibility of other ISO 639 parts becoming useful for the formation of language tags in the future. The use and definition of private use tags has also been modified, to allow people to move as much information as possible out of private use tags, and into the regular structure. The goal is to dramatically reduce the need to produce a revision of this document in the future.
The specific changes in this document to meet these goals are:
Ed Note: The following items are provided for the convenience of reviewers and will be removed from the final document.
Changes between draft-ietf-ltru-registry-02 and this version are:
|||International Organization for Standardization, “ISO 639-1:2002, Codes for the representation of names of languages -- Part 1: Alpha-2 code,” ISO Standard 639, 2002.|
|||International Organization for Standardization, “ISO 639-2:1998 - Codes for the representation of names of languages -- Part 2: Alpha-3 code - edition 1,” August 1988.|
|||ISO TC46/WG3, “ISO 15924:2003 (E/F) - Codes for the representation of names of scripts,” January 2004.|
|||International Organization for Standardization, “Codes for the representation of names of countries, 3rd edition,” ISO Standard 3166, August 1988.|
|||Statistical Division, United Nations, “Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use,” UN Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use, Revision 4 (United Nations publication, Sales No. 98.XVII.9, June 1999.|
|||International Organization for Standardization, “ISO/IEC 10646-1:2000. Information technology — Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set (UCS) — Part 1: Architecture and Basic Multilingual Plane and ISO/IEC 10646-2:2001. Information technology — Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set (UCS) — Part 2: Supplementary Planes, as, from time to time, amended, replaced by a new edition or expanded by the addition of new parts,” 2000.|
|||Crocker, D. and P. Overell, “Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF,” draft-crocker-abnf-rfc2234bis-00 (work in progress), March 2005.|
|||Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.|
|||Hovey, R. and S. Bradner, “The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process,” BCP 11, RFC 2028, October 1996 (TXT, HTML, XML).|
|||Bradner, S., “Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels,” BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997 (TXT, HTML, XML).|
|||Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, “Guidelines for Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs,” BCP 26, RFC 2434, October 1998 (TXT, HTML, XML).|
|||Hoffman, P. and F. Yergeau, “UTF-16, an encoding of ISO 10646,” RFC 2781, February 2000.|
|||Carpenter, B., Baker, F., and M. Roberts, “Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Technical Work of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority,” RFC 2860, June 2000.|
|||Klyne, G. and C. Newman, “Date and Time on the Internet: Timestamps,” RFC 3339, July 2002.|
|||Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, “Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations,” BCP 72, RFC 3552, July 2003.|
|||ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee, “ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee: Working principles for ISO 639 maintenance,” March 2000.|
|||Raymond, E., “The Art of Unix Programming,” 2003.|
|||Bray (et al), T., “Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0,” 02 2004.|
|||Biron, P., Ed. and A. Malhotra, Ed., “XML Schema Part 2: Datatypes Second Edition,” 10 2004.|
|||Unicode Consortium, “The Unicode Consortium. The Unicode Standard, Version 4.1.0, defined by: The Unicode Standard, Version 4.0 (Boston, MA, Addison-Wesley, 2003. ISBN 0-321-18578-1), as amended by Unicode 4.0.1 (http://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode4.0.1) and by Unicode 4.1.0 (http://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode4.1.0).,” March 2005.|
|||Alvestrand, H., “Tags for the Identification of Languages,” RFC 1766, March 1995.|
|||Freed, N. and K. Moore, “MIME Parameter Value and Encoded Word Extensions: Character Sets, Languages, and Continuations,” RFC 2231, November 1997 (TXT, HTML, XML).|
|||Alvestrand, H., “Tags for the Identification of Languages,” BCP 47, RFC 3066, January 2001.|
|Addison Phillips (editor)|
|Mark Davis (editor)|
Any list of contributors is bound to be incomplete; please regard the following as only a selection from the group of people who have contributed to make this document what it is today.
The contributors to RFC 3066 and RFC 1766, the precursors of this document, made enormous contributions directly or indirectly to this document and are generally responsible for the success of language tags.
The following people (in alphabetical order) contributed to this document or to RFCs 1766 and 3066:
Glenn Adams, Harald Tveit Alvestrand, Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Blanchet, Nathaniel Borenstein, Eric Brunner, Sean M. Burke, M.T. Carrasco Benitez, Jeremy Carroll, John Clews, Jim Conklin, Peter Constable, John Cowan, Mark Crispin, Dave Crocker, Martin Duerst, Frank Ellerman, Michael Everson, Doug Ewell, Ned Freed, Tim Goodwin, Dirk-Willem van Gulik, Marion Gunn, Joel Halpren, Elliotte Rusty Harold, Paul Hoffman, Scott Hollenbeck, Richard Ishida, Olle Jarnefors, Kent Karlsson, John Klensin, Alain LaBonte, Eric Mader, Ira McDonald, Keith Moore, Chris Newman, Masataka Ohta, Randy Presuhn, George Rhoten, Markus Scherer, Keld Jorn Simonsen, Thierry Sourbier, Otto Stolz, Tex Texin, Andrea Vine, Rhys Weatherley, Misha Wolf, Francois Yergeau and many, many others.
Very special thanks must go to Harald Tveit Alvestrand, who originated RFCs 1766 and 3066, and without whom this document would not have been possible. Special thanks must go to Michael Everson, who has served as language tag reviewer for almost the complete period since the publication of RFC 1766. Special thanks to Doug Ewell, for his production of the first complete subtag registry, and his work in producing a test parser for verifying language tags.
Simple language subtag:
- de (German)
- fr (French)
- ja (Japanese)
- i-enochian (example of a grandfathered tag)
Language subtag plus Script subtag:
- zh-Hant (Chinese written using the Traditional Chinese script)
- zh-Hans (Chinese written using the Simplified Chinese script)
- sr-Cyrl (Serbian written using the Cyrillic script)
- sr-Latn (Serbian written using the Latin script)
- zh-Hans-CN (Chinese written using the Simlified script as used in mainland China)
- sr-Latn-CS (Serbian written using the Latin script as used in Serbia and Montenegro)
en-boont (Boontling dialect of English)
en-scouse (Scouse dialect of English)
en-GB-scouse (Scouse dialect of English as used in the UK)
- sl-Latn-IT-nedis (Nadiza dialect of Slovenian written using the Latin script as used in Italy. Note that this tag is not recommended because subtag 'sl' has a Suppress-Script value of 'Latn')
- de-DE (German for Germany)
- en-US (English as used in the United States)
- es-419 (Spanish for Latin America and Caribbean region using the UN region code)
Extended language subtags (examples ONLY: extended languages must be defined by revision or update to this document):
Private-use registry values:
- x-whatever (private use using the singleton 'x')
- qaa-Qaaa-QM-x-southern (all private tags)
- de-Qaaa (German, with a private script)
- sr-Latn-QM (Serbian, Latin-script, private region)
- sr-Qaaa-CS (Serbian, private script, for Serbia and Montenegro)
Tags that use extensions (examples ONLY: extensions must be defined by revision or update to this document or by RFC):
Some Invalid Tags:
- de-419-DE (two region tags)
- a-DE (use of a single character subtag in primary position; note that there are a few grandfathered tags that start with "i-" that are valid)
- ar-a-aaa-b-bbb-a-ccc (two extensions with same single letter prefix)
File-Date: 2005-04-18 %% Type: language Subtag: aa Description: Afar Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: language Subtag: ab Description: Abkhazian Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: language Subtag: ae Description: Avestan Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: language Subtag: ar Description: Arabic Added: 2004-07-06 Suppress-Script: Arab Comment: Arabic text is usually written in Arabic script %% Type: language Subtag: qaa..qtz Description: PRIVATE USE Added: 2004-08-01 Comment: Use private use codes in preference to the x- singleton for primary language Comment: This is an example of two comments. %% Type: script Subtag: Arab Description: Arabic Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: script Subtag: Armn Description: Armenian Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: script Subtag: Bali Description: Balinese Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: script Subtag: Batk Description: Batak Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: region Subtag: AA Description: PRIVATE USE Added: 2004-08-01 %% Type: region Subtag: AD Description: Andorra Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: region Subtag: AE Description: United Arab Emirates Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: region Subtag: AX Description: Åland Islands Added: 2004-07-06 Comments: The description shows a Unicode escape for the letter A-ring. %% Type: region Subtag: 001 Description: World Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: region Subtag: 002 Description: Africa Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: region Subtag: 003 Description: North America Added: 2004-07-06 %% Type: variant Subtag: 1901 Description: Traditional German orthography Added: 2004-09-09 Prefix: de Comment: <shows continuation> %% Type: variant Subtag: 1996 Description: German orthography of 1996 Added: 2004-09-09 Prefix: de %% Type: variant Subtag: boont Description: Boontling Added: 2003-02-14 Prefix: en %% Type: variant Subtag: gaulish Description: Gaulish Added: 2001-05-25 Prefix: cel %% Type: grandfathered Tag: art-lojban Description: Lojban Added: 2001-11-11 Canonical: jbo Deprecated: 2003-09-02 %% Type: grandfathered Tag: en-GB-oed Description: English, Oxford English Dictionary spelling Added: 2003-07-09 %% Type: grandfathered Tag: i-ami Description: 'Amis Added: 1999-05-25 %% Type: grandfathered Tag: i-bnn Description: Bunun Added: 1999-05-25 %% Type: redundant Tag: az-Arab Description: Azerbaijani in Arabic script Added: 2003-05-30 %% Type: redundant Tag: az-Cyrl Description: Azerbaijani in Cyrillic script Added: 2003-05-30 %%
| Figure 8: Example of the Registry Format |
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