|Title||Tags for Identifying Languages
|Author||A. Phillips, Ed., M. Davis, Ed.
|Status:||BEST CURRENT PRACTICE
Network Working Group A. Phillips, Ed.
Request for Comments: 5646 Lab126
BCP: 47 M. Davis, Ed.
Obsoletes: 4646 Google
Category: Best Current Practice September 2009
Tags for Identifying Languages
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.
Status of This Memo
This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2. The Language Tag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2.1. Syntax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2.1.1. Formatting of Language Tags . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.2. Language Subtag Sources and Interpretation . . . . . . . . 8
2.2.1. Primary Language Subtag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.2.2. Extended Language Subtags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.2.3. Script Subtag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.2.4. Region Subtag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.2.5. Variant Subtags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2.6. Extension Subtags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
2.2.7. Private Use Subtags . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.2.8. Grandfathered and Redundant Registrations . . . . . . 18
2.2.9. Classes of Conformance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
3. Registry Format and Maintenance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3.1. Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry . . . . . . . 21
3.1.1. File Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3.1.2. Record and Field Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
3.1.3. Type Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3.1.4. Subtag and Tag Fields . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3.1.5. Description Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3.1.6. Deprecated Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
3.1.7. Preferred-Value Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
3.1.8. Prefix Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
3.1.9. Suppress-Script Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.1.10. Macrolanguage Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.1.11. Scope Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3.1.12. Comments Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
3.2. Language Subtag Reviewer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
3.3. Maintenance of the Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
3.4. Stability of IANA Registry Entries . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
3.5. Registration Procedure for Subtags . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
3.6. Possibilities for Registration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
3.7. Extensions and the Extensions Registry . . . . . . . . . . 49
3.8. Update of the Language Subtag Registry . . . . . . . . . . 52
3.9. Applicability of the Subtag Registry . . . . . . . . . . . 52
4. Formation and Processing of Language Tags . . . . . . . . . . 53
4.1. Choice of Language Tag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
4.1.1. Tagging Encompassed Languages . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
4.1.2. Using Extended Language Subtags . . . . . . . . . . . 59
4.2. Meaning of the Language Tag . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
4.3. Lists of Languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
4.4. Length Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
4.4.1. Working with Limited Buffer Sizes . . . . . . . . . . 64
4.4.2. Truncation of Language Tags . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
4.5. Canonicalization of Language Tags . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
4.6. Considerations for Private Use Subtags . . . . . . . . . . 68
5. IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
5.1. Language Subtag Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
5.2. Extensions Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
6. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
7. Character Set Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
8. Changes from RFC 4646 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
9. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
9.1. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
9.2. Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Appendix A. Examples of Language Tags (Informative) . . . . . . . 80
Appendix B. Examples of Registration Forms . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Appendix C. Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
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.
The language of an information item or a user's language preferences
often need to be identified so that appropriate processing can be
applied. For example, the user's language preferences in a Web
browser can be used to select Web pages appropriately. Language
information can also be used to select among tools (such as
dictionaries) to assist in the processing or understanding of content
in different languages. Knowledge about the particular language used
by some piece of information content might be useful or even required
by some types of processing, for example, spell-checking, computer-
synthesized speech, Braille transcription, or high-quality print
One means of indicating the language used is by labeling the
information content with an identifier or "tag". These tags can also
be used to specify the user's preferences when selecting information
content or to label additional attributes of content and associated
Sometimes language tags are used to indicate additional language
attributes of content. For example, indicating specific information
about the dialect, writing system, or orthography used in a document
or resource may enable the user to obtain information in a form that
they can understand, or it can be important in processing or
rendering the given content into an appropriate form or style.
This document specifies a particular identifier mechanism (the
language tag) and a registration function for values to be used to
form tags. It also defines a mechanism for private use values and
This document replaces [RFC4646] (which obsoleted [RFC3066] which, in
turn, replaced [RFC1766]). This document, in combination with
[RFC4647], comprises BCP 47. For a list of changes in this document,
see Section 8.
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].
2. The Language Tag
Language tags are used to help identify languages, whether spoken,
written, signed, or otherwise signaled, for the purpose of
communication. This includes constructed and artificial languages
but excludes languages not intended primarily for human
communication, such as programming languages.
A language tag is composed from a sequence of one or more "subtags",
each of which refines or narrows the range of language identified by
the overall tag. Subtags, in turn, are a sequence of alphanumeric
characters (letters and digits), distinguished and separated from
other subtags in a tag by a hyphen ("-", [Unicode] U+002D).
There are different types of subtag, each of which is distinguished
by length, position in the tag, and content: each subtag's type can
be recognized solely by these features. This makes it possible to
extract and assign some semantic information to the subtags, even if
the specific subtag values are not recognized. Thus, a language tag
processor need not have a list of valid tags or subtags (that is, a
copy of some version of the IANA Language Subtag Registry) in order
to perform common searching and matching operations. The only
exceptions to this ability to infer meaning from subtag structure are
the grandfathered tags listed in the productions 'regular' and
'irregular' below. These tags were registered under [RFC3066] and
are a fixed list that can never change.
The syntax of the language tag in ABNF [RFC5234] is:
Language-Tag = langtag ; normal language tags
/ privateuse ; private use tag
/ grandfathered ; grandfathered tags
langtag = language
language = 2*3ALPHA ; shortest ISO 639 code
["-" extlang] ; sometimes followed by
; extended language subtags
/ 4ALPHA ; or reserved for future use
/ 5*8ALPHA ; or registered language subtag
extlang = 3ALPHA ; selected ISO 639 codes
*2("-" 3ALPHA) ; permanently reserved
script = 4ALPHA ; ISO 15924 code
region = 2ALPHA ; ISO 3166-1 code
/ 3DIGIT ; UN M.49 code
variant = 5*8alphanum ; registered variants
/ (DIGIT 3alphanum)
extension = singleton 1*("-" (2*8alphanum))
; Single alphanumerics
; "x" reserved for private use
singleton = DIGIT ; 0 - 9
/ %x41-57 ; A - W
/ %x59-5A ; Y - Z
/ %x61-77 ; a - w
/ %x79-7A ; y - z
privateuse = "x" 1*("-" (1*8alphanum))
grandfathered = irregular ; non-redundant tags registered
/ regular ; during the RFC 3066 era
irregular = "en-GB-oed" ; irregular tags do not match
/ "i-ami" ; the 'langtag' production and
/ "i-bnn" ; would not otherwise be
/ "i-default" ; considered 'well-formed'
/ "i-enochian" ; These tags are all valid,
/ "i-hak" ; but most are deprecated
/ "i-klingon" ; in favor of more modern
/ "i-lux" ; subtags or subtag
/ "i-mingo" ; combination
regular = "art-lojban" ; these tags match the 'langtag'
/ "cel-gaulish" ; production, but their subtags
/ "no-bok" ; are not extended language
/ "no-nyn" ; or variant subtags: their meaning
/ "zh-guoyu" ; is defined by their registration
/ "zh-hakka" ; and all of these are deprecated
/ "zh-min" ; in favor of a more modern
/ "zh-min-nan" ; subtag or sequence of subtags
alphanum = (ALPHA / DIGIT) ; letters and numbers
Figure 1: Language Tag ABNF
For examples of language tags, see Appendix A.
All subtags have a maximum length of eight characters. Whitespace is
not permitted in a language tag. There is a subtlety in the ABNF
production 'variant': a variant starting with a digit has a minimum
length of four characters, while those starting with a letter have a
minimum length of five characters.
Although [RFC5234] refers to octets, the language tags described in
this document are sequences of characters from the US-ASCII [ISO646]
repertoire. Language tags MAY be used in documents and applications
that use other encodings, so long as these encompass the relevant
part of the US-ASCII repertoire. An example of this would be an XML
document that uses the UTF-16LE [RFC2781] encoding of [Unicode].
2.1.1. Formatting of Language Tags
At all times, language 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
MUST NOT be taken to carry meaning.
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.
The ABNF syntax also does not distinguish between upper- and
lowercase: the uppercase US-ASCII letters in the range 'A' through
'Z' are always considered equivalent and mapped directly to their US-
ASCII lowercase equivalents in the range 'a' through 'z'. So the tag
"I-AMI" is considered equivalent to that value "i-ami" in the
Although case distinctions do not carry meaning in language tags,
consistent formatting and presentation of language tags will aid
users. The format of subtags in the registry is RECOMMENDED as the
form to use in language tags. This format generally corresponds to
the common conventions for the various ISO standards from which the
subtags are derived.
These conventions include:
o [ISO639-1] recommends that language codes be written in lowercase
o [ISO15924] recommends that script codes use lowercase with the
initial letter capitalized ('Cyrl' Cyrillic).
o [ISO3166-1] recommends that country codes be capitalized ('MN'
An implementation can reproduce this format without accessing the
registry as follows. All subtags, including extension and private
use subtags, use lowercase letters with two exceptions: two-letter
and four-letter subtags that neither appear at the start of the tag
nor occur after singletons. Such two-letter subtags are all
uppercase (as in the tags "en-CA-x-ca" or "sgn-BE-FR") and four-
letter subtags are titlecase (as in the tag "az-Latn-x-latn").
Note: Case folding of ASCII letters in certain locales, unless
carefully handled, sometimes produces non-ASCII character values.
The Unicode Character Database file "SpecialCasing.txt"
[SpecialCasing] 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
2.2. Language Subtag Sources and Interpretation
The namespace of language tags and their subtags is administered by
the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) according to the rules
in Section 5 of this document. The Language Subtag Registry
maintained by IANA is the source for valid subtags: other standards
referenced in this section provide the source material for that
Terminology used in this document:
o "Tag" refers to a complete language tag, such as "sr-Latn-RS" or
"az-Arab-IR". Examples of tags in this document are enclosed in
o "Subtag" refers to a specific section of a tag, delimited by a
hyphen, such as the subtags 'zh', 'Hant', and 'CN' in the tag "zh-
Hant-CN". Examples of subtags in this document are enclosed in
single quotes ('Hant').
o "Code" refers to values defined in external standards (and that
are used as subtags in this document). For example, 'Hant' is an
[ISO15924] script code that was used to define the 'Hant' script
subtag for use in a language tag. Examples of codes in this
document are enclosed in single quotes ('en', 'Hant').
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.
Some of the subtags in the IANA registry do not come from an
underlying standard. These can only appear in specific positions in
a tag: they can only occur as primary language subtags or as variant
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. These sequences are introduced
by single-character subtags, which are reserved as follows:
o The single-letter subtag 'x' introduces a sequence of private use
subtags. The interpretation of any private use subtag is defined
solely by private agreement and is not defined by the rules in
this section or in any standard or registry defined in this
o The single-letter subtag 'i' is used by some grandfathered tags,
such as "i-default", where it always appears in the first position
and cannot be confused with an extension.
o All other single-letter and single-digit subtags are reserved to
introduce standardized extension subtag sequences as described in
2.2.1. Primary Language Subtag
The primary language subtag is the first subtag in a language tag and
cannot be omitted, with two exceptions:
o The single-character subtag 'x' as the primary subtag indicates
that the language tag consists solely of subtags whose meaning is
defined by private agreement. For example, in the tag "x-fr-CH",
the subtags 'fr' and 'CH' do not represent the French language or
the country of Switzerland (or any other value in the IANA
registry) unless there is a private agreement in place to do so.
See Section 4.6.
o The single-character subtag 'i' is used by some grandfathered tags
(see Section 2.2.8) such as "i-klingon" and "i-bnn". (Other
grandfathered tags have a primary language subtag in their first
The following rules apply to the primary language subtag:
1. Two-character primary language subtags were defined in the IANA
registry according to the assignments found in the standard "ISO
639-1:2002, Codes for the representation of names of languages --
Part 1: Alpha-2 code" [ISO639-1], or using assignments
subsequently made by the ISO 639-1 registration authority (RA) or
governing standardization bodies.
2. Three-character primary language subtags in the IANA registry
were defined according to the assignments found in one of these
additional ISO 639 parts or assignments subsequently made by the
relevant ISO 639 registration authorities or governing
A. "ISO 639-2:1998 - Codes for the representation of names of
languages -- Part 2: Alpha-3 code - edition 1" [ISO639-2]
B. "ISO 639-3:2007 - Codes for the representation of names of
languages -- Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage
of languages" [ISO639-3]
C. "ISO 639-5:2008 - Codes for the representation of names of
languages -- Part 5: Alpha-3 code for language families and
3. The subtags in the range 'qaa' through 'qtz' are reserved for
private use in language tags. These subtags correspond to codes
reserved by ISO 639-2 for private use. These codes MAY be used
for non-registered primary language subtags (instead of using
private use subtags following 'x-'). Please refer to Section 4.6
for more information on private use subtags.
4. Four-character language subtags are reserved for possible future
5. Any language subtags of five to eight characters in length in the
IANA registry were defined via the registration process in
Section 3.5 and MAY be used to form the primary language subtag.
An example of what such a registration might include is the
grandfathered IANA registration "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-
At the time this document was created, there were no examples of
this kind of subtag. Future registrations of this type are
discouraged: an attempt to register any new proposed primary
language MUST be made to the ISO 639 registration authority.
Proposals rejected by the ISO 639 registration authority are
unlikely to meet the criteria for primary language subtags and
are thus unlikely to be registered.
6. Other values MUST NOT be assigned to the primary subtag except by
revision or update of this document.
When languages have both an ISO 639-1 two-character code and a three-
character code (assigned by ISO 639-2, ISO 639-3, or ISO 639-5), only
the ISO 639-1 two-character code is defined in the IANA registry.
When a language has no ISO 639-1 two-character code and the ISO
639-2/T (Terminology) code and the ISO 639-2/B (Bibliographic) code
for that language 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 codes were also assigned a
two-character code; it is expected that future assignments of this
nature will not occur.
In order to avoid instability in 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 either ISO 639-2 or ISO
639-3, the two-character code MUST NOT be registered. See
For example, if some content were tagged with 'haw' (Hawaiian), which
currently has no two-character code, the tag would not need to be
changed if ISO 639-1 were to assign a two-character code to the
Hawaiian language at a later date.
To avoid these problems with versioning and subtag choice (as
experienced during the transition between RFC 1766 and RFC 3066), as
well as to ensure 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
"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."
2.2.2. Extended Language Subtags
Extended language subtags are used to identify certain specially
selected languages that, for various historical and compatibility
reasons, are closely identified with or tagged using an existing
primary language subtag. Extended language subtags are always used
with their enclosing primary language subtag (indicated with a
'Prefix' field in the registry) when used to form the language tag.
All languages that have an extended language subtag in the registry
also have an identical primary language subtag record in the
registry. This primary language subtag is RECOMMENDED for forming
the language tag. The following rules apply to the extended language
1. Extended language subtags consist solely of three-letter subtags.
All extended language subtag records defined in the registry were
defined according to the assignments found in [ISO639-3].
Language collections and groupings, such as defined in
[ISO639-5], are specifically excluded from being extended
2. Extended language subtag records MUST include exactly one
'Prefix' field indicating an appropriate subtag or sequence of
subtags for that extended language subtag.
3. Extended language subtag records MUST include a 'Preferred-
Value'. The 'Preferred-Value' and 'Subtag' fields MUST be
4. Although the ABNF production 'extlang' permits up to three
extended language tags in the language tag, extended language
subtags MUST NOT include another extended language subtag in
their 'Prefix'. That is, the second and third extended language
subtag positions in a language tag are permanently reserved and
tags that include those subtags in that position are, and will
always remain, invalid.
For example, the macrolanguage Chinese ('zh') encompasses a number of
languages. For compatibility reasons, each of these languages has
both a primary and extended language subtag in the registry. A few
selected examples of these include Gan Chinese ('gan'), Cantonese
Chinese ('yue'), and Mandarin Chinese ('cmn'). Each is encompassed
by the macrolanguage 'zh' (Chinese). Therefore, they each have the
prefix "zh" in their registry records. Thus, Gan Chinese is
represented with tags beginning "zh-gan" or "gan", Cantonese with
tags beginning either "yue" or "zh-yue", and Mandarin Chinese with
"zh-cmn" or "cmn". The language subtag 'zh' can still be used
without an extended language subtag to label a resource as some
unspecified variety of Chinese, while the primary language subtag
('gan', 'yue', 'cmn') is preferred to using the extended language
form ("zh-gan", "zh-yue", "zh-cmn").
2.2.3. Script Subtag
Script subtags are used to indicate the script or writing system
variations that distinguish the written forms of a language or its
dialects. The following rules apply to the script subtags:
1. Script subtags MUST follow any primary and extended language
subtags and MUST precede any other type of subtag.
2. Script subtags consist of four letters and were defined according
to the assignments found in [ISO15924] ("Information and
documentation -- Codes for the representation of names of
scripts"), or subsequently assigned by the ISO 15924 registration
authority or governing standardization bodies. Only codes
assigned by ISO 15924 will be considered for registration.
3. The script subtags 'Qaaa' through 'Qabx' are reserved for private
use in language tags. These subtags correspond to codes reserved
by ISO 15924 for private use. These codes MAY be used for non-
registered script values. Please refer to Section 4.6 for more
information on private use subtags.
4. There MUST be at most one script subtag in a language tag, and
the script subtag SHOULD be omitted when it adds no
distinguishing value to the tag or when the primary or extended
language subtag's record in the subtag registry includes a
'Suppress-Script' field listing the applicable script subtag.
For example: "sr-Latn" represents Serbian written using the Latin
2.2.4. Region Subtag
Region subtags are used to indicate linguistic variations associated
with or appropriate to a specific country, territory, or region.
Typically, a region subtag is used to indicate variations such as
regional dialects or usage, or region-specific spelling conventions.
It can also be used to indicate that content is expressed in a way
that is appropriate for use throughout a region, for instance,
Spanish content tailored to be useful throughout Latin America.
The following rules apply to the region subtags:
1. Region subtags MUST follow any primary language, extended
language, or script subtags and MUST precede any other type of
2. Two-letter region subtags were defined according to the
assignments found in [ISO3166-1] ("Codes for the representation
of names of countries and their subdivisions -- Part 1: Country
codes"), using the list of alpha-2 country codes or using
assignments subsequently made by the ISO 3166-1 maintenance
agency or governing standardization bodies. In addition, the
codes that are "exceptionally reserved" (as opposed to
"assigned") in ISO 3166-1 were also defined in the registry, with
the exception of 'UK', which is an exact synonym for the assigned
3. The region subtags 'AA', 'QM'-'QZ', 'XA'-'XZ', and 'ZZ' are
reserved for private use in language tags. These subtags
correspond to codes reserved by ISO 3166 for private use. These
codes MAY be used for private use region subtags (instead of
using a private use subtag sequence). Please refer to
Section 4.6 for more information on private use subtags.
4. Three-character region subtags consist solely of digit (number)
characters and were defined according to the assignments found in
the UN Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use
[UN_M.49] or assignments subsequently made by the governing
standards body. Not all of the UN M.49 codes are defined in the
IANA registry. The following rules define which codes are
entered into the registry as valid subtags:
A. UN numeric codes assigned to 'macro-geographical
(continental)' or sub-regions MUST be registered in the
registry. These codes are not associated with an assigned
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code and represent supra-national areas,
usually covering more than one nation, state, province, or
B. UN numeric codes for 'economic groupings' or 'other
groupings' MUST NOT be registered in the IANA registry and
MUST NOT be used to form language tags.
C. When ISO 3166-1 reassigns a code formerly used for one
country or area to another country or area and that code
already is present in the registry, the UN numeric code for
that country or area MUST be registered in the registry as
described in Section 3.4 and MUST be used to form language
tags that represent the country or region for which it is
defined (rather than the recycled ISO 3166-1 code).
D. UN numeric codes for countries or areas for which there is an
associated ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code in the registry MUST NOT
be entered into the registry and MUST NOT be used to form
language tags. Note that the ISO 3166-based subtag in the
registry MUST actually be associated with the UN M.49 code in
E. For historical reasons, the UN numeric code 830 (Channel
Islands), which was not registered at the time this document
was adopted and had, at that time, no corresponding ISO
3166-1 code, MAY be entered into the IANA registry via the
process described in Section 3.5, provided no ISO 3166-1 code
with that exact meaning has been previously registered.
F. All other UN numeric codes for countries or areas that do not
have an associated ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code MUST NOT be
entered into the registry and MUST NOT be used to form
language tags. For more information about these codes, see
5. The alphanumeric codes in Appendix X of the UN document MUST NOT
be entered into the registry and MUST NOT be used to form
language tags. (At the time this document was created, these
values matched the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes.)
6. There MUST be at most one region subtag in a language tag and the
region subtag MAY be omitted, as when it adds no distinguishing
value to the tag.
"de-AT" represents German ('de') as used in Austria ('AT').
"sr-Latn-RS" represents Serbian ('sr') written using Latin script
('Latn') as used in Serbia ('RS').
"es-419" represents Spanish ('es') appropriate to the UN-defined
Latin America and Caribbean region ('419').
2.2.5. Variant Subtags
Variant subtags are used to indicate additional, well-recognized
variations that define a language or its dialects that are not
covered by other available subtags. The following rules apply to the
1. Variant subtags MUST follow any primary language, extended
language, script, or region subtags and MUST precede any
extension or private use subtag sequences.
2. Variant subtags, as a collection, are not associated with any
particular external standard. The meaning of variant subtags in
the registry is defined in the course of the registration process
defined in Section 3.5. Note that any particular variant subtag
might be associated with some external standard. However,
association with a standard is not required for registration.
3. More than one variant MAY be used to form the language tag.
4. Variant subtags MUST be registered with IANA according to the
rules in Section 3.5 of this document before being used to form
language tags. In order to distinguish variants from other types
of subtags, registrations MUST meet the following length and
1. Variant subtags that begin with a letter (a-z, A-Z) MUST be
at least five characters long.
2. Variant subtags that begin with a digit (0-9) MUST be at
least four characters long.
5. The same variant subtag MUST NOT be used more than once within a
* For example, the tag "de-DE-1901-1901" is not valid.
Variant subtag records in the Language Subtag Registry MAY include
one or more 'Prefix' (Section 3.1.8) fields. Each 'Prefix' indicates
a suitable sequence of subtags for forming (with other subtags, as
appropriate) a language tag when using the variant.
Most variants that share a prefix are mutually exclusive. For
example, the German orthographic variations '1996' and '1901' SHOULD
NOT be used in the same tag, as they represent the dates of different
spelling reforms. A variant that can meaningfully 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"
"sl-nedis" represents the Natisone or Nadiza dialect of Slovenian.
"de-CH-1996" represents German as used in Switzerland and as
written using the spelling reform beginning in the year 1996 C.E.
2.2.6. Extension Subtags
Extensions provide a mechanism for extending language tags for use in
various applications. They are intended to identify information that
is commonly used in association with languages or language tags but
that is not part of language identification. See Section 3.7. The
following rules apply to extensions:
1. An extension MUST follow at least a primary language subtag.
That is, a language tag cannot begin with an extension.
Extensions extend language tags, they do not override or replace
them. For example, "a-value" is not a well-formed language tag,
while "de-a-value" is. Note that extensions cannot be used in
tags that are entirely private use (that is, tags starting with
2. Extension subtags are separated from the other subtags defined in
this document by a single-character subtag (called a
"singleton"). The singleton MUST be one allocated to a
registration authority via the mechanism described in Section 3.7
and MUST NOT be the letter 'x', which is reserved for private use
3. Each singleton subtag MUST appear at most one time in each tag
(other than as a private use subtag). That is, singleton subtags
MUST NOT be repeated. For example, the tag "en-a-bbb-a-ccc" is
invalid because the subtag 'a' appears twice. Note that the tag
"en-a-bbb-x-a-ccc" is valid because the second appearance of the
singleton 'a' is in a private use sequence.
4. Extension subtags MUST meet whatever requirements are set by the
document that defines their singleton prefix and whatever
requirements are provided by the maintaining authority. Note
that there might not be a registry of these subtags and
validating processors are not required to validate extensions.
5. Each extension subtag MUST be from two to eight characters long
and consist solely of letters or digits, with each subtag
separated by a single '-'. Case distinctions are ignored in
extensions (as with any language subtag) and normalized subtags
of this type are expected to be in lowercase.
6. Each singleton MUST be followed by at least one extension subtag.
For example, the tag "tlh-a-b-foo" is invalid because the first
singleton 'a' is followed immediately by another singleton 'b'.
7. Extension subtags MUST follow all primary language, extended
language, script, region, and variant subtags in a tag and MUST
precede any private use subtag sequences.
8. All subtags following the singleton and before another singleton
are part of the extension. Example: In the tag "fr-a-Latn", the
subtag 'Latn' does not represent the script subtag 'Latn' defined
in the IANA Language Subtag Registry. Its meaning is defined by
the extension 'a'.
9. In the event that more than one extension appears in a single
tag, the tag SHOULD be canonicalized as described in Section 4.5,
by ordering the various extension sequences into case-insensitive
For example, if an extension were defined for the singleton 'r' and
it defined the subtags shown, then the following tag would be a valid
2.2.7. Private Use Subtags
Private use subtags are used to indicate distinctions in language
that are important in a given context by private agreement. The
following rules apply to private use subtags:
1. Private use subtags are separated from the other subtags defined
in this document by the reserved single-character subtag 'x'.
2. Private use subtags MUST conform to the format and content
constraints defined in the ABNF for all subtags; that is, they
MUST consist solely of letters and digits and not exceed eight
characters in length.
3. Private use subtags MUST follow all primary language, extended
language, script, region, variant, and extension subtags in the
tag. Another way of saying this is that all subtags following
the singleton 'x' MUST be considered private use. Example: The
subtag 'US' in the tag "en-x-US" is a private use subtag.
4. A tag MAY consist entirely of private use subtags.
5. No source is defined for private use subtags. Use of private use
subtags is by private agreement only.
6. Private use subtags are NOT RECOMMENDED where alternatives exist
or for general interchange. See Section 4.6 for more information
on private use subtag choice.
For example, suppose a group of scholars is studying some texts in
medieval Greek. They might agree to use some collection of private
use subtags to identify different styles of writing in the texts.
For example, they might use 'el-x-koine' for documents in the
"common" style while using 'el-x-attic' for other documents that
mimic the Attic style. These subtags would not be recognized by
outside processes or systems, but might be useful in categorizing
various texts for study by those in the group.
In the registry, there are also subtags derived from codes reserved
by ISO 639, ISO 15924, or ISO 3166 for private use. Do not confuse
these with private use subtag sequences following the subtag 'x'.
See Section 4.6.
2.2.8. Grandfathered and Redundant Registrations
Prior to RFC 4646, whole language tags were registered according to
the rules in RFC 1766 and/or RFC 3066. All of these registered tags
remain valid as language tags.
Many of these registered tags were made redundant by the advent of
either RFC 4646 or this document. A redundant tag is a grandfathered
registration whose individual subtags appear with the same semantic
meaning in the registry. For example, the tag "zh-Hant" (Traditional
Chinese) can now be composed from the subtags 'zh' (Chinese) and
'Hant' (Han script traditional variant). These redundant tags are
maintained in the registry as records of type 'redundant', mostly as
a matter of historical curiosity.
The remainder of the previously registered tags are "grandfathered".
These tags are classified into two groups: 'regular' and 'irregular'.
Grandfathered tags that (appear to) match the 'langtag' production in
Figure 1 are considered 'regular' grandfathered tags. These tags
contain one or more subtags that either do not individually appear in
the registry or appear but with a different semantic meaning: each
tag, in its entirety, represents a language or collection of
Grandfathered tags that do not match the 'langtag' production in the
ABNF and would otherwise be invalid are considered 'irregular'
grandfathered tags. With the exception of "en-GB-oed", which is a
variant of "en-GB", each of them, in its entirety, represents a
Many of the grandfathered tags have been superseded by the subsequent
addition of new subtags: each superseded record contains a
'Preferred-Value' field that ought to be used to form language tags
representing that value. For example, the tag "art-lojban" is
superseded by the primary language subtag 'jbo'.
2.2.9. Classes of Conformance
Implementations sometimes need to describe their capabilities with
regard to the rules and practices described in this document. Tags
can be checked or verified in a number of ways, but two particular
classes of tag conformance are formally defined here.
A tag is considered "well-formed" if it conforms to the ABNF
(Section 2.1). Language tags may be well-formed in terms of syntax
but not valid in terms of content. However, many operations
involving language tags work well without knowing anything about the
meaning or validity of the subtags.
A tag is considered "valid" if it satisfies these conditions:
o The tag is well-formed.
o Either the tag is in the list of grandfathered tags or all of its
primary language, extended language, script, region, and variant
subtags appear in the IANA Language Subtag Registry as of the
particular registry date.
o There are no duplicate variant subtags.
o There are no duplicate singleton (extension) subtags.
Note that a tag's validity depends on the date of the registry used
to validate the tag. A more recent copy of the registry might
contain a subtag that an older version does not.
A tag is considered valid for a given extension (Section 3.7) (as of
a particular version, revision, and date) if it meets the criteria
for "valid" above and also satisfies this condition:
Each subtag used in the extension part of the tag is valid
according to the extension.
Older specifications or language tag implementations sometimes
reference [RFC3066]. A wider array of tags was considered well-
formed under that document. Any tags that were valid for use under
RFC 3066 are both well-formed and valid under this document's syntax;
only invalid or illegal tags were well-formed under the earlier
definition but no longer are. The language tag syntax under RFC 3066
obs-language-tag = primary-subtag *( "-" subtag )
primary-subtag = 1*8ALPHA
subtag = 1*8(ALPHA / DIGIT)
Figure 2: RFC 3066 Language Tag Syntax
Subtags designated for private use as well as private use sequences
introduced by the 'x' subtag are available for cases in which no
assigned subtags are available and registration is not a suitable
option. For example, one might use a tag such as "no-QQ", where 'QQ'
is one of a range of private use ISO 3166-1 codes to indicate an
otherwise undefined region. Users MUST NOT assign language tags that
use subtags that do not appear in the registry other than in private
use sequences (such as the subtag 'personal' in the tag "en-x-
personal"). Besides not being valid, the user also risks collision
with a future possible assignment or registrations.
Note well: although the 'Language-Tag' production appearing in this
document is functionally equivalent to the one in [RFC4646], it has
been changed to prevent certain errors in well-formedness arising
from the old 'grandfathered' production.
3. Registry Format and Maintenance
The IANA Language Subtag Registry ("the registry") 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 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
This section defines the registry along with the maintenance and
update procedures associated with it, as well as a registry for
extensions to language tags (Section 3.7).
3.1. Format of the IANA Language Subtag Registry
The IANA Language Subtag Registry is a machine-readable file in the
format described in this section, plus copies of the registration
forms approved in accordance with the process described in
The existing registration forms for grandfathered and redundant tags
taken from RFC 3066 have been maintained as part of the obsolete RFC
3066 registry. The subtags added to the registry by either [RFC4645]
or [RFC5645] do not have separate registration forms (so no forms are
archived for these additions).
3.1.1. File Format
The registry is a [Unicode] text file and consists of a series of
records in a format based on "record-jar" (described in
[record-jar]). Each record, in turn, consists of a series of fields
that describe the various subtags and tags. The actual registry file
is encoded using the UTF-8 [RFC3629] character encoding.
Each field can be considered a single, logical line of characters.
Each field contains a "field-name" and a "field-body". These are
separated by a "field-separator". The field-separator is a COLON
character (U+003A) plus any surrounding whitespace. Each field is
terminated by the newline sequence CRLF. The text in each field MUST
be in Unicode Normalization Form C (NFC).
A collection of fields forms a "record". Records are separated by
lines containing only the sequence "%%" (U+0025 U+0025).
Although fields are logically a single line of text, each line of
text in the file format is limited to 72 bytes in length. To
accommodate this, the field-body can be split into a multiple-line
representation; this is called "folding". Folding is done according
to customary conventions for line-wrapping. This is typically on
whitespace boundaries, but can occur between other characters when
the value does not include spaces, such as when a language does not
use whitespace between words. In any event, there MUST NOT be breaks
inside a multibyte UTF-8 sequence or in the middle of a combining
character sequence. For more information, see [UAX14].
Although the file format uses the Unicode character set and the file
itself is encoded using the UTF-8 encoding, fields are restricted to
the printable characters from the US-ASCII [ISO646] repertoire unless
otherwise indicated in the description of a specific field
The format of the registry is described by the following ABNF
[RFC5234]. Character numbers (code points) are taken from Unicode,
and terminals in the ABNF productions are in terms of characters
rather than bytes.
registry = record *("%%" CRLF record)
record = 1*field
field = ( field-name field-sep field-body CRLF )
field-name = (ALPHA / DIGIT) [*(ALPHA / DIGIT / "-") (ALPHA / DIGIT)]
field-sep = *SP ":" *SP
field-body = *([[*SP CRLF] 1*SP] 1*CHARS)
CHARS = (%x21-10FFFF) ; Unicode code points
Figure 3: Registry Format ABNF
The sequence '..' (U+002E U+002E) in a field-body denotes a range of
values. Such a range represents all subtags of the same length that
are in alphabetic or numeric order within that range, including the
values explicitly mentioned. For example, 'a..c' denotes the values
'a', 'b', and 'c', and '11..13' denotes the values '11', '12', and
All fields whose field-body contains a date value use the "full-date"
format specified in [RFC3339]. For example, "2004-06-28" represents
June 28, 2004, in the Gregorian calendar.
3.1.2. Record and Field Definitions
There are three types of records in the registry: "File-Date",
"Subtag", and "Tag".
The first record in the registry is always the "File-Date" record.
This record occurs only once in the file and contains a single field
whose field-name is "File-Date". The field-body of this record
contains a date (see Section 5.1), making it possible to easily
recognize different versions of the registry.
Figure 4: Example of the File-Date Record
Subsequent records contain multiple fields and represent information
about either subtags or tags. Both types of records have an
identical structure, except that "Subtag" records contain a field
with a field-name of "Subtag", while, unsurprisingly, "Tag" records
contain a field with a field-name of "Tag". Field-names MUST NOT
occur more than once per record, with the exception of the
'Description', 'Comments', and 'Prefix' fields.
Each record MUST contain at least one of each of the following
* Type's field-body MUST consist of one of the following strings:
"language", "extlang", "script", "region", "variant",
"grandfathered", and "redundant"; it denotes the type of tag or
o Either 'Subtag' or 'Tag'
* Subtag's field-body contains the subtag being defined. This
field MUST appear in all records whose 'Type' has one of these
values: "language", "extlang", "script", "region", or
* Tag's field-body contains a complete language tag. This field
MUST appear in all records whose 'Type' has one of these
values: "grandfathered" or "redundant". If the 'Type' is
"grandfathered", then the 'Tag' field-body will be one of the
tags listed in either the 'regular' or 'irregular' production
found in Section 2.1.
* Description's field-body contains a non-normative description
of the subtag or tag.
* Added's field-body contains the date the record was registered
or, in the case of grandfathered or redundant tags, the date
the corresponding tag was registered under the rules of
[RFC1766] or [RFC3066].
Each record MAY also contain the following fields:
* Deprecated's field-body contains the date the record was
deprecated. In some cases, this value is earlier than that of
the 'Added' field in the same record. That is, the date of
deprecation preceded the addition of the record to the
* Preferred-Value's field-body contains a canonical mapping from
this record's value to a modern equivalent that is preferred in
its place. Depending on the value of the 'Type' field, this
value can take different forms:
+ For fields of type 'language', 'Preferred-Value' contains
the primary language subtag that is preferred when forming
the language tag.
+ For fields of type 'script', 'region', or 'variant',
'Preferred-Value' contains the subtag of the same type that
is preferred for forming the language tag.
+ For fields of type 'extlang', 'grandfathered', or
'redundant', 'Preferred-Value' contains an "extended
language range" [RFC4647] that is preferred for forming the
language tag. That is, the preferred language tag will
contain, in order, each of the subtags that appears in the
'Preferred-Value'; additional fields can be included in a
language tag, as described elsewhere in this document. For
example, the replacement for the grandfathered tag "zh-min-
nan" (Min Nan Chinese) is "nan", which can be used as the
basis for tags such as "nan-Hant" or "nan-TW" (note that the
extended language subtag form such as "zh-nan-Hant" or "zh-
nan-TW" can also be used).
* Prefix's field-body contains a valid language tag that is
RECOMMENDED as one possible prefix to this record's subtag.
This field MAY appear in records whose 'Type' field-body is
either 'extlang' or 'variant' (it MUST NOT appear in any other
* Suppress-Script's field-body contains a script subtag that
SHOULD NOT be used to form language tags with the associated
primary or extended language subtag. This field MUST appear
only in records whose 'Type' field-body is 'language' or
'extlang'. See Section 4.1.
* Macrolanguage's field-body contains a primary language subtag
defined by ISO 639 as the "macrolanguage" that encompasses this
language subtag. This field MUST appear only in records whose
'Type' field-body is either 'language' or 'extlang'.
* Scope's field-body contains information about a primary or
extended language subtag indicating the type of language code
according to ISO 639. The values permitted in this field are
"macrolanguage", "collection", "special", and "private-use".
This field only appears in records whose 'Type' field-body is
either 'language' or 'extlang'. When this field is omitted,
the language is an individual language.
* Comments's field-body contains additional information about the
subtag, as deemed appropriate for understanding the registry
and implementing language tags using the subtag or tag.
Future versions of this document might add additional fields to the
registry; implementations SHOULD ignore fields found in the registry
that are not defined in this document.
3.1.3. Type Field
The field 'Type' contains the string identifying the record type in
which it appears. Values for the 'Type' field-body are: "language"
(Section 2.2.1); "extlang" (Section 2.2.2); "script" (Section 2.2.3);
"region" (Section 2.2.4); "variant" (Section 2.2.5); "grandfathered"
or "redundant" (Section 2.2.8).
3.1.4. Subtag and Tag Fields
The field 'Subtag' contains the subtag defined in the record. The
field 'Tag' appears in records whose 'Type' is either 'grandfathered'
or 'redundant' and contains a tag registered under [RFC3066].
The 'Subtag' field-body MUST follow the casing conventions described
in Section 2.1.1. All subtags use lowercase letters in the field-
body, 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, the non-
numeric region subtags defined by ISO 3166-1) MUST use all
The 'Tag' field-body MUST be formatted according to the rules
described in Section 2.1.1.
3.1.5. Description Field
The field 'Description' contains a description of the tag or subtag
in the record. The 'Description' field MAY appear more than once per
record. The 'Description' field MAY include the full range of
Unicode characters. At least one of the 'Description' fields MUST be
written or transcribed into the Latin script; additional
'Description' fields MAY be in any script or language.
The 'Description' field is used for identification purposes.
Descriptions SHOULD contain all and only that information necessary
to distinguish one subtag from others with which it might be
confused. They are not intended to provide general background
information or to provide all possible alternate names or
designations. 'Description' fields don't necessarily represent the
actual native name of the item in the record, nor are any of the
descriptions guaranteed to be in any particular language (such as
English or French, for example).
Descriptions in the registry that correspond to ISO 639, ISO 15924,
ISO 3166-1, 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 or as subsequently modified, within
the bounds of the stability rules (Section 3.4), via subsequent
registration. The 'Description' does not replace the content of the
source standard itself. 'Description' fields are not intended to be
the localized English names for the subtags. Localization or
translation of language tag and subtag descriptions is out of scope
of this document.
For subtags taken from a source standard (such as ISO 639 or ISO
15924), the 'Description' fields in the record are also initially
taken from that source standard. Multiple descriptions in the source
standard are split into separate 'Description' fields. The source
standard's descriptions MAY be edited or modified, either prior to
insertion or via the registration process, and additional or
extraneous descriptions omitted or removed. Each 'Description' field
MUST be unique within the record in which it appears, and formatting
variations of the same description SHOULD NOT occur in that specific
record. For example, while the ISO 639-1 code 'fy' has both the
description "Western Frisian" and the description "Frisian, Western"
in that standard, only one of these descriptions appears in the
To help ensure that users do not become confused about which subtag
to use, 'Description' fields assigned to a record of any specific
type ('language', 'extlang', 'script', and so on) MUST be unique
within that given record type with the following exception: if a
particular 'Description' field occurs in multiple records of a given
type, then at most one of the records can omit the 'Deprecated'
field. All deprecated records that share a 'Description' MUST have
the same 'Preferred-Value', and all non-deprecated records MUST be
that 'Preferred-Value'. This means that two records of the same type
that share a 'Description' are also semantically equivalent and no
more than one record with a given 'Description' is preferred for that
For example, consider the 'language' subtags 'zza' (Zaza) and 'diq'
(Dimli). It so happens that 'zza' is a macrolanguage enclosing 'diq'
and thus also has a description in ISO 639-3 of "Dimli". This
description was edited to read "Dimli (macrolanguage)" in the
registry record for 'zza' to prevent a collision.
By contrast, the subtags 'he' and 'iw' share a 'Description' value of
"Hebrew"; this is permitted because 'iw' is deprecated and its
'Preferred-Value' is 'he'.
For fields of type 'language', the first 'Description' field
appearing in the registry corresponds whenever possible to the
Reference Name assigned by ISO 639-3. This helps facilitate cross-
referencing between ISO 639 and the registry.
When creating or updating a record due to the action of one of the
source standards, the Language Subtag Reviewer MAY edit descriptions
to correct irregularities in formatting (such as misspellings,
inappropriate apostrophes or other punctuation, or excessive or
missing spaces) prior to submitting the proposed record to the
firstname.lastname@example.org list for consideration.
3.1.6. Deprecated Field
The field 'Deprecated' contains the date the record was deprecated
and MAY be added, changed, or removed from any record via the
maintenance process described in Section 3.3 or via the registration
process described in Section 3.5. 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. 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.
In some historical cases, it might not have been possible to
reconstruct the original deprecation date. For these cases, an
approximate date appears in the registry. Some subtags and some
grandfathered or redundant tags were deprecated before the initial
creation of the registry. The exact rules for this appear in Section
2 of [RFC4645]. Note that these records have a 'Deprecated' field
with an earlier date then the corresponding 'Added' field!
3.1.7. Preferred-Value Field
The field 'Preferred-Value' contains a mapping between the record in
which it appears and another tag or subtag (depending on the record's
'Type'). The value in this field is used for canonicalization (see
Section 4.5). In cases where the subtag or tag also has a
'Deprecated' field, then the 'Preferred-Value' is RECOMMENDED as the
best choice to represent the value of this record when selecting a
Records containing a 'Preferred-Value' fall into one of these four
1. ISO 639 language codes that were later withdrawn in favor of
other codes. These values are mostly a historical curiosity.
The 'he'/'iw' pairing above is an example of this.
2. Subtags (with types other than language or extlang) taken from
codes or values that have been withdrawn in favor of a new code.
In particular, this applies to region subtags taken from ISO
3166-1, because sometimes a country will change its name or
administration in such a way that warrants a new region code. In
some cases, countries have reverted to an older name, which might
already be encoded. For example, the subtag 'ZR' (Zaire) was
replaced by the subtag 'CD' (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
when that country's name was changed.
3. Tags or subtags that have become obsolete because the values they
represent were later encoded. Many of the grandfathered or
redundant tags were later encoded by ISO 639, for example, and
fall into this grouping. For example, "i-klingon" was deprecated
when the subtag 'tlh' was added. The record for "i-klingon" has
a 'Preferred-Value' of 'tlh'.
4. Extended language subtags always have a mapping to their
identical primary language subtag. For example, the extended
language subtag 'yue' (Cantonese) can be used to form the tag
"zh-yue". It has a 'Preferred-Value' mapping to the primary
language subtag 'yue', meaning that a tag such as
"zh-yue-Hant-HK" can be canonicalized to "yue-Hant-HK".
Records other than those of type 'extlang' that contain a 'Preferred-
Value' field MUST also have a 'Deprecated' field. This field
contains the date on which the tag or subtag was deprecated in favor
of the preferred value.
For records of type 'extlang', the 'Preferred-Value' field appears
without a corresponding 'Deprecated' field. An implementation MAY
ignore these preferred value mappings, although if it ignores the
mapping, it SHOULD do so consistently. It SHOULD also treat the
'Preferred-Value' as equivalent to the mapped item. For example, the
tags "zh-yue-Hant-HK" and "yue-Hant-HK" are semantically equivalent
and ought to be treated as if they were the same tag.
Occasionally, the deprecated code is preferred in certain contexts.
For example, both "iw" and "he" can be used in the Java programming
language, but "he" is converted on input to "iw", which is thus the
canonical form in Java.
'Preferred-Value' mappings in records of type 'region' sometimes do
not represent exactly the same meaning as the original value. There
are many reasons for a country code to be changed, and the effect
this has on the formation of language tags will depend on the nature
of the change in question. For example, the region subtag 'YD'
(Democratic Yemen) was deprecated in favor of the subtag 'YE' (Yemen)
when those two countries unified in 1990.
A 'Preferred-Value' MAY be added to, changed, or removed from records
according to the rules in Section 3.3. Addition, modification, or
removal of a 'Preferred-Value' field in a record does not imply that
content using the affected subtag needs to be retagged.
The 'Preferred-Value' fields in records of type "grandfathered" and
"redundant" each contain an "extended language range" [RFC4647] that
is strongly RECOMMENDED for use in place of the record's value. In
many cases, these mappings were created via deprecation of the tags
during the period before [RFC4646] was adopted. For example, the tag
"no-nyn" was deprecated in favor of the ISO 639-1-defined language
The 'Preferred-Value' field in subtag records of type "extlang" also
contains an "extended language range". This allows the subtag to be
deprecated in favor of either a single primary language subtag or a
new language-extlang sequence.
Usually, the addition, removal, or change of a 'Preferred-Value'
field for a subtag is done to reflect changes in one of the source
standards. For example, if an ISO 3166-1 region code is deprecated
in favor of another code, that SHOULD result in the addition of a
Changes to one subtag can affect other subtags as well: when
proposing changes to the registry, the Language Subtag Reviewer MUST
review the registry for such effects and propose the necessary
changes using the process in Section 3.5, although anyone MAY request
such changes. For example:
Suppose that subtag 'XX' has a 'Preferred-Value' of 'YY'. If 'YY'
later changes to have a 'Preferred-Value' of 'ZZ', then the
'Preferred-Value' for 'XX' MUST also change to be 'ZZ'.
Suppose that a registered language subtag 'dialect' represents a
language not yet available in any part of ISO 639. The later
addition of a corresponding language code in ISO 639 SHOULD result
in the addition of a 'Preferred-Value' for 'dialect'.
3.1.8. Prefix Field
The field 'Prefix' contains a valid language tag that is RECOMMENDED
as one possible prefix to this record's subtag, perhaps with other
subtags. That is, when including an extended language or a variant
subtag that has at least one 'Prefix' in a language tag, the
resulting tag SHOULD match at least one of the subtag's 'Prefix'
fields using the "Extended Filtering" algorithm (see [RFC4647]), and
each of the subtags in that 'Prefix' SHOULD appear before the subtag
The 'Prefix' field MUST appear exactly once in a record of type
'extlang'. The 'Prefix' field MAY appear multiple times (or not at
all) in records of type 'variant'. Additional fields of this type
MAY be added to a 'variant' record via the registration process,
provided the 'variant' record already has at least one 'Prefix'
Each 'Prefix' field indicates a particular sequence of subtags that
form a meaningful tag with this subtag. For example, the extended
language subtag 'cmn' (Mandarin Chinese) only makes sense with its
prefix 'zh' (Chinese). Similarly, 'rozaj' (Resian, a dialect of
Slovenian) would be appropriate when used with its prefix 'sl'
(Slovenian), while tags such as "is-1994" are not appropriate (and
probably not meaningful). Although the 'Prefix' for 'rozaj' is "sl",
other subtags might appear between them. For example, the tag "sl-
IT-rozaj" (Slovenian, Italy, Resian) matches the 'Prefix' "sl".
The 'Prefix' also indicates when variant subtags make sense when used
together (many that otherwise share a 'Prefix' are mutually
exclusive) and what the relative ordering of variants is supposed to
be. For example, the variant '1994' (Standardized Resian
orthography) has several 'Prefix' fields in the registry ("sl-rozaj",
"sl-rozaj-biske", "sl-rozaj-njiva", "sl-rozaj-osojs", and "sl-rozaj-
solba"). This indicates not only that '1994' is appropriate to use
with each of these five Resian variant subtags ('rozaj', 'biske',
'njiva', 'osojs', and 'solba'), but also that it SHOULD appear
following any of these variants in a tag. Thus, the language tag
ought to take the form "sl-rozaj-biske-1994", rather than "sl-1994-
rozaj-biske" or "sl-rozaj-1994-biske".
If a record includes no 'Prefix' field, a 'Prefix' field MUST NOT be
added to the record at a later date. Otherwise, changes (additions,
deletions, or modifications) to the set of 'Prefix' fields MAY be
registered, as long as they strictly widen the range of language tags
that are recommended. For example, a 'Prefix' with the value "be-
Latn" (Belarusian, Latin script) could be replaced by the value "be"
(Belarusian) but not by the value "ru-Latn" (Russian, Latin script)
or the value "be-Latn-BY" (Belarusian, Latin script, Belarus), since
these latter either change or narrow the range of suggested tags.
The field-body of the 'Prefix' field MUST NOT conflict with any
'Prefix' already registered for a given record. Such a conflict
would occur when no valid tag could be constructed that would contain
the prefix, such as when two subtags each have a 'Prefix' that
contains the other subtag. For example, suppose that the subtag
'avariant' has the prefix "es-bvariant". Then the subtag 'bvariant'
cannot be assigned the prefix 'avariant', for that would require a
tag of the form "es-avariant-bvariant-avariant", which would not be
3.1.9. Suppress-Script Field
The field 'Suppress-Script' contains a script subtag (whose record
appears in the registry). The field 'Suppress-Script' MUST appear
only in records whose 'Type' field-body is either 'language' or
'extlang'. This field MUST NOT appear more than one time in a
This field indicates a script used to write the overwhelming majority
of documents for the given language. The subtag for such a script
therefore adds no distinguishing information to a language tag and
thus SHOULD NOT be used for most documents in that language.
Omitting the script subtag indicated by this 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. For example, virtually all Icelandic
documents are written in the Latin script, making the subtag 'Latn'
redundant in the tag "is-Latn".
Many language subtag records do not have a 'Suppress-Script' field.
The lack of a 'Suppress-Script' might indicate that the language is
customarily written in more than one script or that the language is
not customarily written at all. It might also mean that sufficient
information was not available when the record was created and thus
remains a candidate for future registration.
3.1.10. Macrolanguage Field
The field 'Macrolanguage' contains a primary language subtag (whose
record appears in the registry). This field indicates a language
that encompasses this subtag's language according to assignments made
by ISO 639-3.
ISO 639-3 labels some languages in the registry as "macrolanguages".
ISO 639-3 defines the term "macrolanguage" to mean "clusters of
closely-related language varieties that [...] can be considered
distinct individual languages, yet in certain usage contexts a single
language identity for all is needed". These correspond to codes
registered in ISO 639-2 as individual languages that were found to
correspond to more than one language in ISO 639-3.
A language contained within a macrolanguage is called an "encompassed
language". The record for each encompassed language contains a
'Macrolanguage' field in the registry; the macrolanguages themselves
are not specially marked. Note that some encompassed languages have
ISO 639-1 or ISO 639-2 codes.
The 'Macrolanguage' field can only occur in records of type
'language' or 'extlang'. Only values assigned by ISO 639-3 will be
considered for inclusion. 'Macrolanguage' fields MAY be added or
removed via the normal registration process whenever ISO 639-3
defines new values or withdraws old values. Macrolanguages are
informational, and MAY be removed or changed if ISO 639-3 changes the
values. For more information on the use of this field and choosing
between macrolanguage and encompassed language subtags, see
For example, the language subtags 'nb' (Norwegian Bokmal) and 'nn'
(Norwegian Nynorsk) each have a 'Macrolanguage' field with a value of
'no' (Norwegian). For more information, see Section 4.1.
3.1.11. Scope Field
The field 'Scope' contains classification information about a primary
or extended language subtag derived from ISO 639. Most languages
have a scope of 'individual', which means that the language is not a
macrolanguage, collection, special code, or private use. That is, it
is what one would normally consider to be 'a language'. Any primary
or extended language subtag that has no 'Scope' field is an
'Scope' information can sometimes be helpful in selecting language
tags, since it indicates the purpose or "scope" of the code
assignment within ISO 639. The available values are:
o 'macrolanguage' - Indicates a macrolanguage as defined by ISO
639-3 (see Section 3.1.10). A macrolanguage is a cluster of
closely related languages that are sometimes considered to be a
o 'collection' - Indicates a subtag that represents a collection of
languages, typically related by some type of historical,
geographical, or linguistic association. Unlike a macrolanguage,
a collection can contain languages that are only loosely related
and a collection cannot be used interchangeably with languages
that belong to it.
o 'special' - Indicates a special language code. These are subtags
used for identifying linguistic attributes not particularly
associated with a concrete language. These include codes for when
the language is undetermined or for non-linguistic content.
o 'private-use' - Indicates a code reserved for private use in the
underlying standard. Subtags with this scope can be used to
indicate a primary language for which no ISO 639 or registered
The 'Scope' field MAY appear in records of type 'language' or
'extlang'. Note that many of the prefixes for extended language
subtags will have a 'Scope' of 'macrolanguage' (although some will
not) and that many languages that have a 'Scope' of 'macrolanguage'
will have extended language subtags associated with them.
The 'Scope' field MAY be added, modified, or removed via the
registration process, provided the change mirrors changes made by ISO
639 to the assignment's classification. Such a change is expected to
For example, the primary language subtag 'zh' (Chinese) has a 'Scope'
of 'macrolanguage', while its enclosed language 'nan' (Min Nan
Chinese) has a 'Scope' of 'individual'. The special value 'und'
(Undetermined) has a 'Scope' of 'special'. The ISO 639-5 collection
'gem' (Germanic languages) has a 'Scope' of 'collection'.
3.1.12. Comments Field
The field 'Comments' contains additional information about the record
and MAY appear more than once per record. The field-body MAY include
the full range of Unicode characters and is not restricted to any
particular script. 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. The primary reason for the
'Comments' field is subtag identification -- to help distinguish the
subtag from others with which it might be confused as an aid to
usage. Large amounts of information about the use, history, or
general background of a subtag are frowned upon, as these generally
belong in a registration request rather than in the registry.
3.2. Language Subtag Reviewer
The Language Subtag Reviewer moderates the email@example.com
mailing list, responds to requests for registration, and performs the
other registry maintenance duties described in Section 3.3. Only the
Language Subtag Reviewer is permitted to request IANA to change,
update, or add records to the Language Subtag Registry. The Language
Subtag Reviewer MAY delegate list moderation and other clerical
duties as needed.
The Language Subtag Reviewer is appointed by the IESG for an
indefinite term, subject to removal or replacement at the IESG's
discretion. The IESG will solicit nominees for the position (upon
adoption of this document or upon a vacancy) and then solicit
feedback on the nominees' qualifications. Qualified candidates
should be familiar with BCP 47 and its requirements; be willing to
fairly, responsively, and judiciously administer the registration
process; and be suitably informed about the issues of language
identification so that the reviewer can assess the claims and draw
upon the contributions of language experts and subtag requesters.
The subsequent performance or decisions of the Language Subtag
Reviewer MAY be appealed to the IESG under the same rules as other
IETF decisions (see [RFC2026]). The IESG can reverse or overturn the
decisions of the Language Subtag Reviewer, provide guidance, or take
other appropriate actions.
3.3. Maintenance of the Registry
Maintenance of the registry requires that, as codes are assigned or
withdrawn by ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166, and UN M.49, the Language
Subtag Reviewer MUST evaluate each change and determine the
appropriate course of action according to the rules in this document.
Such updates follow the registration process described in
Section 3.5. Usually, the Language Subtag Reviewer will start the
process for the new or updated record by filling in the registration
form and submitting it. If a change to one of these standards takes
place and the Language Subtag Reviewer does not do this in a timely
manner, then any interested party MAY submit the form. Thereafter,
the registration process continues normally.
Note that some registrations affect other subtags--perhaps more than
one--as when a region subtag is being deprecated in favor of a new
value. The Language Subtag Reviewer is responsible for ensuring that
any such changes are properly registered, with each change requiring
its own registration form.
The Language Subtag Reviewer MUST ensure that new subtags meet the
requirements elsewhere in this document (and most especially in
Section 3.4) or submit an appropriate registration form for an
alternate subtag as described in that section. Each individual
subtag affected by a change MUST be sent to the
firstname.lastname@example.org list with its own registration form and in a
3.4. Stability of IANA Registry Entries
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:
1. Values in the fields 'Type', 'Subtag', 'Tag', and 'Added' MUST
NOT be changed and are guaranteed to be stable over time.
2. Values in the fields 'Preferred-Value' and 'Deprecated' MAY be
added, altered, or removed via the registration process. These
changes SHOULD be limited to changes necessary to mirror changes
in one of the underlying standards (ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO
3166-1, or UN M.49) and typically alteration or removal of a
'Preferred-Value' is limited specifically to region codes.
3. Values in the 'Description' field MUST NOT be changed in a way
that would invalidate any existing tags. The description MAY be
broadened somewhat in scope, changed to add information, or
adapted to the most common modern usage. For example, countries
occasionally change their names; a historical example of this is
"Upper Volta" changing to "Burkina Faso".
4. Values in the field 'Prefix' MAY be added to existing records of
type 'variant' via the registration process, provided the
'variant' already has at least one 'Prefix'. A 'Prefix' field
SHALL NOT be registered for any 'variant' that has no existing
'Prefix' field. If a prefix is added to a variant record,
'Comment' fields MAY be used to explain different usages with
the various prefixes.
5. Values in the field 'Prefix' in records of type 'variant' MAY
also be modified, so long as the modifications broaden the set
of prefixes. That is, a prefix MAY be replaced by one of its
own prefixes. For example, the prefix "en-US" could be replaced
by "en", but not by the prefixes "en-Latn", "fr", or "en-US-
boont". If one of those prefix values were needed, it would
have to be separately registered.
6. Values in the field 'Prefix' in records of type 'extlang' MUST
NOT be added, modified, or removed.
7. The field 'Prefix' MUST NOT be removed from any record in which
it appears. This field SHOULD be included in the initial
registration of any records of type 'variant' and MUST be
included in any records of type 'extlang'.
8. The field 'Comments' MAY be added, changed, modified, or removed
via the registration process or any of the processes or
considerations described in this section.
9. The field 'Suppress-Script' MAY be added or removed via the
10. The field 'Macrolanguage' MAY be added or removed via the
registration process, but only in response to changes made by
ISO 639. The 'Macrolanguage' field appears whenever a language
has a corresponding macrolanguage in ISO 639. That is, the
'Macrolanguage' fields in the registry exactly match those of
ISO 639. No other macrolanguage mappings will be considered for
11. The field 'Scope' MAY be added or removed from a primary or
extended language subtag after initial registration, and it MAY
be modified in order to match any changes made by ISO 639.
Changes to the 'Scope' field MUST mirror changes made by ISO
639. Note that primary or extended language subtags whose
records do not contain a 'Scope' field (that is, most of them)
are individual languages as described in Section 3.1.11.
12. Primary and extended language subtags (other than independently
registered values created using the registration process) are
created according to the assignments of the various parts of ISO
639, as follows:
A. Codes assigned by ISO 639-1 that do not conflict with
existing two-letter primary language subtags and that have
no corresponding three-letter primary defined in the
registry are entered into the IANA registry as new records
of type 'language'. Note that languages given an ISO 639-1
code cannot be given extended language subtags, even if
encompassed by a macrolanguage.
B. Codes assigned by ISO 639-3 or ISO 639-5 that do not
conflict with existing three-letter primary language subtags
and that do not have ISO 639-1 codes assigned (or expected
to be assigned) are entered into the IANA registry as new
records of type 'language'. Note that these two standards
now comprise a superset of ISO 639-2 codes. Codes that have
a defined 'macrolanguage' mapping at the time of their
registration MUST contain a 'Macrolanguage' field.
C. Codes assigned by ISO 639-3 MAY also be considered for an
extended language subtag registration. Note that they MUST
be assigned a primary language subtag record of type
'language' even when an 'extlang' record is proposed. When
considering extended language subtag assignment, these
1. If a language has a macrolanguage mapping, and that
macrolanguage has other encompassed languages that are
assigned extended language subtags, then the new
language SHOULD have an 'extlang' record assigned to it
as well. For example, any language with a macrolanguage
of 'zh' or 'ar' would be assigned an 'extlang' record.
2. 'Extlang' records SHOULD NOT be created for languages if
other languages encompassed by the macrolanguage do not
also include 'extlang' records. For example, if a new
Serbo-Croatian ('sh') language were registered, it would
not get an extlang record because other languages
encompassed, such as Serbian ('sr'), do not include one
in the registry.
3. Sign languages SHOULD have an 'extlang' record with a
'Prefix' of 'sgn'.
4. 'Extlang' records MUST NOT be created for items already
in the registry. Extended language subtags will only be
considered at the time of initial registration.
5. Extended language subtag records MUST include the fields
'Prefix' and 'Preferred-Value' with field values
assigned as described in Section 2.2.2.
D. Any other codes assigned by ISO 639-2 that do not conflict
with existing three-letter primary or extended language
subtags and that do not have ISO 639-1 two-letter codes
assigned are entered into the IANA registry as new records
of type 'language'. This type of registration is not
supposed to occur in the future.
13. Codes assigned by ISO 15924 and ISO 3166-1 that do not conflict
with existing subtags of the associated type and whose meaning
is not the same as an existing subtag of the same type are
entered into the IANA registry as new records.
14. Codes assigned by ISO 639, ISO 15924, or ISO 3166-1 that are
withdrawn by their respective maintenance or registration
authority remain valid in language tags. A 'Deprecated' field
containing the date of withdrawal MUST be added to the record.
If a new record of the same type is added that represents a
replacement value, then a 'Preferred-Value' field MAY also be
added. The registration process MAY be used to add comments
about the withdrawal of the code by the respective standard.
For example: the region code 'TL' was assigned to the country
'Timor-Leste', replacing the code 'TP' (which was assigned to
'East Timor' when it was under administration by Portugal).
The subtag 'TP' remains valid in language tags, but its
record contains the 'Preferred-Value' of 'TL' and its field
'Deprecated' contains the date the new code was assigned
15. Codes assigned by ISO 639, ISO 15924, or ISO 3166-1 that
conflict with existing subtags of the associated type, including
subtags that are deprecated, MUST NOT be entered into the
registry. The following additional considerations apply to
subtag values that are reassigned:
A. For ISO 639 codes, if the newly assigned code's meaning is
not represented by a subtag in the IANA registry, the
Language Subtag Reviewer, as described in Section 3.5, SHALL
prepare a proposal for entering in the IANA registry, as
soon as practical, a registered language subtag as an
alternate value for the new code. The form of the
registered language subtag will be at the discretion of the
Language Subtag Reviewer and MUST conform to other
restrictions on language subtags in this document.
B. For all subtags whose meaning is derived from an external
standard (that is, by ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166-1, or UN
M.49), if a new meaning is assigned to an existing code and
the new meaning broadens the meaning of that code, then the
meaning for the associated subtag MAY be changed to match.
The meaning of a subtag MUST NOT be narrowed, however, as
this can result in an unknown proportion of the existing
uses of a subtag becoming invalid. Note: the ISO 639
registration authority (RA) has adopted a similar stability
C. For ISO 15924 codes, if the newly assigned code's meaning is
not represented by a subtag in the IANA registry, the
Language Subtag Reviewer, as described in Section 3.5, SHALL
prepare a proposal for entering in the IANA registry, as
soon as practical, a registered variant subtag as an
alternate value for the new code. The form of the
registered variant subtag will be at the discretion of the
Language Subtag Reviewer and MUST conform to other
restrictions on variant subtags in this document.
D. For ISO 3166-1 codes, if the newly assigned code's meaning
is associated with the same UN M.49 code as another 'region'
subtag, then the existing region subtag remains as the
preferred value for that region and no new entry is created.
A comment MAY be added to the existing region subtag
indicating the relationship to the new ISO 3166-1 code.
E. For ISO 3166-1 codes, if the newly assigned code's meaning
is associated with a UN M.49 code that is not represented by
an existing region subtag, then the Language Subtag
Reviewer, as described in Section 3.5, SHALL prepare a
proposal for entering the appropriate UN M.49 country code
as an entry in the IANA registry.
F. For ISO 3166-1 codes, if there is no associated UN numeric
code, then the Language Subtag Reviewer SHALL petition the
UN to create one. If there is no response from the UN
within 90 days of the request being sent, the Language
Subtag Reviewer SHALL prepare a proposal for entering in the
IANA registry, as soon as practical, a registered variant
subtag as an alternate value for the new code. The form of
the registered variant subtag will be at the discretion of
the Language Subtag Reviewer and MUST conform to other
restrictions on variant subtags in this document. This
situation is very unlikely to ever occur.
16. UN M.49 has codes for both "countries and areas" (such as '276'
for Germany) and "geographical regions and sub-regions" (such as
'150' for Europe). UN M.49 country or area codes for which
there is no corresponding ISO 3166-1 code MUST NOT be
registered, except as a surrogate for an ISO 3166-1 code that is
blocked from registration by an existing subtag.
If such a code becomes necessary, then the maintenance agency
for ISO 3166-1 SHALL first be petitioned to assign a code to the
region. If the petition for a code assignment by ISO 3166-1 is
refused or not acted on in a timely manner, the registration
process described in Section 3.5 can then be used to register
the corresponding UN M.49 code. This way, UN M.49 codes remain
available as the value of last resort in cases where ISO 3166-1
reassigns a deprecated value in the registry.
17. The redundant and grandfathered entries together form the
complete list of tags registered under [RFC3066]. The redundant
tags are those previously registered tags that can now be formed
using the subtags defined in the registry. The grandfathered
entries include those that can never be legal because they are
'irregular' (that is, they do not match the 'langtag' production
in Figure 1), are limited by rule (subtags such as 'nyn' and
'min' look like the extlang production, but cannot be registered
as extended language subtags), or their subtags are
inappropriate for registration. All of the grandfathered tags
are listed in either the 'regular' or the 'irregular'
productions in the ABNF. Under [RFC4646] it was possible for
grandfathered tags to become redundant. However, all of the
tags for which this was possible became redundant before this
document was produced. So the set of redundant and
grandfathered tags is now permanent and immutable: new entries
of either type MUST NOT be added and existing entries MUST NOT
be removed. The decision-making process about which tags were
initially grandfathered and which were made redundant is
described in [RFC4645].
Many of the grandfathered tags are deprecated -- indeed, they
were deprecated even before [RFC4646]. For example, the tag
"art-lojban" was deprecated in favor of the primary language
subtag 'jbo'. These tags could have been made 'redundant' by
registering some of their subtags as 'variants'. The 'variant-
like' subtags in the grandfathered registrations SHALL NOT be
registered in the future, even with a similar or identical
3.5. Registration Procedure for Subtags
The procedure given here MUST be used by anyone who wants to use a
subtag not currently in the IANA Language Subtag Registry or who
wishes to add, modify, update, or remove information in existing
records as permitted by this document.
Only subtags of type 'language' and 'variant' will be considered for
independent registration of new subtags. Subtags needed for
stability and subtags necessary to keep the registry synchronized
with ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166, and UN M.49 within the limits
defined by this document also use this process, as described in
Section 3.3 and subject to stability provisions as described in
Registration requests are accepted relating to information in the
'Comments', 'Deprecated', 'Description', 'Prefix', 'Preferred-Value',
'Macrolanguage', or 'Suppress-Script' fields in a subtag's record as
described in Section 3.4. 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 requester filling out the registration
form reproduced below. Note that each response is not limited in
size so that the request can adequately describe the registration.
The fields in the "Record Requested" section need to follow the
requirements in Section 3.1 before the record will be approved.
LANGUAGE SUBTAG REGISTRATION FORM
1. Name of requester:
2. E-mail address of requester:
3. Record Requested:
4. Intended meaning of the subtag:
5. Reference to published description
of the language (book or article):
6. Any other relevant information:
Figure 5: The Language Subtag Registration Form
Examples of completed registration forms can be found in Appendix B.
A complete list of approved registration forms is online through
http://www.iana.org; readers should note that the Language Tag
Registry is now obsolete and should instead look for the Language
The subtag registration form MUST be sent to
<email@example.com>. Registration requests receive a two-week
review period before being approved and submitted to IANA for
inclusion in the registry. If modifications are made to the request
during the course of the registration process (such as corrections to
meet the requirements in Section 3.1 or to make the 'Description'
fields unique for the given record type), the modified form MUST also
be sent to <firstname.lastname@example.org> at least one week prior to
submission to IANA.
The ietf-languages list is an open list and can be joined by sending
a request to <email@example.com>. The list can be
hosted by IANA or any third party at the request of IESG.
Before forwarding any registration to IANA, the Language Subtag
Reviewer MUST ensure that all requirements in this document are met.
This includes ensuring that values in the 'Subtag' field match case
according to the description in Section 3.1.4 and that 'Description'
fields are unique for the given record type as described in
Section 3.1.5. The Reviewer MUST also ensure that an appropriate
File-Date record is included in the request, to assist IANA when
updating the registry (see Section 5.1).
Some fields in both the registration form as well as the registry
record itself permit the use of non-ASCII characters. Registration
requests SHOULD use the UTF-8 encoding for consistency and clarity.
However, since some mail clients do not support this encoding, other
encodings MAY be used for the registration request. The Language
Subtag Reviewer is responsible for ensuring that the proper Unicode
characters appear in both the archived request form and the registry
record. In the case of a transcription or encoding error by IANA,
the Language Subtag Reviewer will request that the registry be
repaired, providing any necessary information to assist IANA.
Extended language subtags (type 'extlang'), by definition, are always
encompassed by another language. All records of type 'extlang' MUST,
therefore, contain a 'Prefix' field at the time of registration.
This 'Prefix' field can never be altered or removed, and requests to
do so MUST be rejected.
Variant subtags are usually registered for use with a particular
range of language tags, and variant subtags based on the terminology
of the language to which they are apply are encouraged. For example,
the subtag 'rozaj' (Resian) is intended for use with language tags
that start with the primary language subtag "sl" (Slovenian), since
Resian is a dialect of Slovenian. Thus, the subtag 'rozaj' would be
appropriate in tags such as "sl-Latn-rozaj" or "sl-IT-rozaj". This
information is stored in the 'Prefix' field in the registry. Variant
registration requests SHOULD include at least one 'Prefix' field in
the registration form.
Requests to assign an additional record of a given type with an
existing subtag value MUST be rejected. For example, the variant
subtag 'rozaj' already exists in the registry, so adding a second
record of type 'variant' with the subtag 'rozaj' is prohibited.
The 'Prefix' field for a given registered variant subtag exists in
the IANA registry as a guide to usage. Additional 'Prefix' fields
MAY be added by filing an additional registration form. In that
form, the "Any other relevant information:" field MUST indicate that
it is the addition of a prefix.
Requests to add a 'Prefix' field to a variant subtag that imply a
different semantic meaning SHOULD be rejected. For example, a
request to add the prefix "de" to the subtag '1994' so that the tag
"de-1994" represented some German dialect or orthographic form would
be rejected. The '1994' subtag represents a particular Slovenian
orthography, and the additional registration would change or blur the
semantic meaning assigned to the subtag. A separate subtag SHOULD be
Requests to add a 'Prefix' to a variant subtag that has no current
'Prefix' field MUST be rejected. Variants are registered with no
prefix because they are potentially useful with many or even all
languages. Adding one or more 'Prefix' fields would be potentially
harmful to the use of the variant, since it dramatically reduces the
scope of the subtag (which is not allowed under the stability rules
(Section 3.4) as opposed to broadening the scope of the subtag, which
is what the addition of a 'Prefix' normally does. An example of such
a "no-prefix" variant is the subtag 'fonipa', which represents the
International Phonetic Alphabet, a scheme that can be used to
transcribe many languages.
The 'Description' fields provided in the request MUST contain at
least one description written or transcribed into the Latin script;
the request MAY also include additional 'Description' fields in any
script or language. The 'Description' field is used for
identification purposes and doesn't necessarily represent the actual
native name of the language or variation. It also doesn't have to be
in any particular language, but SHOULD be both suitable and
sufficient to identify the item in the record. The Language Subtag
Reviewer will check and edit any proposed 'Description' fields so as
to ensure uniqueness and prevent collisions with 'Description' fields
in other records of the same type. If this occurs in an independent
registration request, the Language Subtag Reviewer MUST resubmit the
record to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, treating it as a modification of
a request due to discussion, as described in Section 3.5, unless the
request's sole purpose is to introduce a duplicate 'Description'
field, in which case the request SHALL be rejected.
The 'Description' field is not guaranteed to be stable. Corrections
or clarifications of intent are examples of possible changes.
Attempts to provide translations or transcriptions of entries in the
registry (which, by definition, provide no new information) are
unlikely to be approved.
Soon after the two-week review period has passed, the Language Subtag
Reviewer MUST take one of the following actions:
o Explicitly accept the request and forward the form containing the
record to be inserted or modified to <email@example.com> according to
the procedure described in Section 3.3.
o Explicitly reject the request because of significant objections
raised on the list or due to problems with constraints in this
document (which MUST be explicitly cited).
o Extend the review period by granting an additional two-week
increment to permit further discussion. After each two-week
increment, the Language Subtag Reviewer MUST indicate on the list
whether the registration has been accepted, rejected, or extended.
Note that the Language Subtag Reviewer MAY raise objections on the
list if he or she so desires. The important thing is that the
objection MUST be made publicly.
Sometimes the request needs to be modified as a result of discussion
during the review period or due to requirements in this document.
The applicant, Language Subtag Reviewer, or others MAY submit a
modified version of the completed registration form, which will be
considered in lieu of the original request with the explicit approval
of the applicant. Such changes do not restart the two-week
discussion period, although an application containing the final
record submitted to IANA MUST appear on the list at least one week
prior to the Language Subtag Reviewer forwarding the record to IANA.
The applicant MAY modify a rejected application with more appropriate
or additional information and submit it again; this starts a new two-
week comment period.
Registrations initiated due to the provisions of Section 3.3 or
Section 3.4 SHALL NOT be rejected altogether (since they have to
ultimately appear in the registry) and SHOULD be completed as quickly
as possible. The review process allows list members to comment on
the specific information in the form and the record it contains and
thus help ensure that it is correct and consistent. The Language
Subtag Reviewer MAY reject a specific version of the form, but MUST
propose a suitable replacement, extending the review period as
described above, until the form is in a format worthy of the
reviewer's approval and meets with rough consensus of the list.
Decisions made by the Language Subtag Reviewer MAY be appealed to the
IESG [RFC2028] under the same rules as other IETF decisions
[RFC2026]. This includes a decision to extend the review period or
the failure to announce a decision in a clear and timely manner.
The approved records appear in the Language Subtag Registry. The
approved registration forms are available online from
Updates or changes to existing records 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 "Reference to published description" section
in the registration form is to aid in verifying whether a language is
registered or to which language or language variation a particular
subtag refers. 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 Language 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.
3.6. Possibilities for Registration
Possibilities for registration of subtags or information about
o Primary language subtags for languages not listed in ISO 639 that
are not variants of any listed or registered language MAY be
registered. At the time this document was created, there were no
examples of this form of subtag. Before attempting to register a
language subtag, there MUST be an attempt to register the language
with ISO 639. Subtags MUST NOT be registered for languages
defined by codes that exist in ISO 639-1, ISO 639-2, or ISO 639-3;
that are under consideration by the ISO 639 registration
authorities; or that have never been attempted for registration
with those authorities. If ISO 639 has previously rejected a
language for registration, it is reasonable to assume that there
must be additional, very compelling evidence of need before it
will be registered as a primary language subtag in the IANA
registry (to the extent that it is very unlikely that any subtags
will be registered of this type).
o Dialect or other divisions or variations within a language, its
orthography, writing system, regional or historical usage,
transliteration or other transformation, or distinguishing
variation MAY be registered as variant subtags. An example is the
'rozaj' subtag (the Resian dialect of Slovenian).
o The addition or maintenance of fields (generally of an
informational nature) in tag or subtag records as described in
Section 3.1 is allowed. Such changes are subject to the stability
provisions in Section 3.4. This includes 'Description',
'Comments', 'Deprecated', and 'Preferred-Value' fields for
obsolete or withdrawn codes, or the addition of 'Suppress-Script'
or 'Macrolanguage' fields to primary language subtags, as well as
other changes permitted by this document, such as the addition of
an appropriate 'Prefix' field to a variant subtag.
o The addition of records and related field value changes necessary
to reflect assignments made by ISO 639, ISO 15924, ISO 3166-1, and
UN M.49 as described in Section 3.4 is allowed.
Subtags proposed for registration that would cause all or part of a
grandfathered tag to become redundant but whose meaning conflicts
with or alters the meaning of the grandfathered tag MUST be rejected.
This document leaves the decision on what subtags or changes to
subtags are appropriate (or not) to the registration process
described in Section 3.5.
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 registration authority 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 registration authority 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, DC 20540, USA
Phone: +1 202 707 6237 Fax: +1 202 707 0115
ISO 639-3 defines a registration authority for additions to and
changes in the list of languages in ISO 639-3. This agency is:
ISO 639-3 Registrar
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Phone: +1 972 708 7400, ext. 2293
Fax: +1 972 708 7546
ISO 639-5 defines a registration authority for additions to and
changes in the list of languages in ISO 639-5. This agency is the
same as for ISO 639-2 and is:
Library of Congress
Network Development and MARC Standards Office
Washington, DC 20540, USA
Phone: +1 202 707 6237
Fax: +1 202 707 0115
The maintenance agency for ISO 3166-1 (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:
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
Statistical Services Branch
United Nations, Room DC2-1620
New York, NY 10017, USA
3.7. Extensions and the Extensions Registry
Extension subtags are those introduced by single-character subtags
("singletons") other than 'x'. They are reserved for the generation
of identifiers that contain a language component and are compatible
with applications that understand language tags.
The structure and form of extensions are defined by this document so
that implementations can be created that are forward compatible with
applications that might be created using singletons in the future.
In addition, defining a mechanism for maintaining singletons will
lend stability to this document by reducing the likely need for
future revisions or updates.
Single-character subtags are assigned by IANA using the "IETF Review"
policy defined by [RFC5226]. This policy requires the development of
an RFC, which SHALL define 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:
o The specification MUST reference the specific version or revision
of this document that governs its creation and MUST reference this
section of this document.
o The specification and all subtags defined by the specification
MUST follow the ABNF and other rules for the formation of tags and
subtags as defined in this document. In particular, it MUST
specify that case is not significant and that subtags MUST NOT
exceed eight characters in length.
o The specification MUST specify a canonical representation.
o The specification of valid subtags MUST be available over the
Internet and at no cost.
o The specification MUST be in the public domain or available via a
royalty-free license acceptable to the IETF and specified in the
o The specification MUST be versioned, and each version of the
specification MUST be numbered, dated, and stable.
o The specification MUST be stable. That is, extension subtags,
once defined by a specification, MUST NOT be retracted or change
in meaning in any substantial way.
o The specification MUST include, in a separate section, the
registration form reproduced in this section (below) to be used in
registering the extension upon publication as an RFC.
o IANA MUST be informed of changes to the contact information and
URL for the specification.
IANA will maintain a registry of allocated single-character
(singleton) subtags. This registry MUST use the record-jar format
described by the ABNF in Section 3.1.1. Upon publication of an
extension as an RFC, the maintaining authority defined in the RFC
MUST forward this registration form to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, who MUST
forward the request to <email@example.com>. The maintaining authority of
the extension MUST maintain the accuracy of the record by sending an
updated full copy of the record to <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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, maintain the corresponding registry,
or meet other conditions imposed by this section of this document MAY
be appealed to the IESG [RFC2028] under the same rules as other IETF
decisions (see [RFC2026]) and MAY result in the authority to maintain
the extension being withdrawn or reassigned by the IESG.
Figure 6: Format of Records in the Language Tag Extensions Registry
'Identifier' contains the single-character subtag (singleton)
assigned to the extension. The Internet-Draft submitted to define
the extension SHOULD specify which letter or digit 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 extension's RFC was published in the
"full-date" format specified in [RFC3339]. 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
'Contact_Email' contains the email address used to contact the
'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 sometimes 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
When a language tag is to be used in a specific, known protocol, it
is RECOMMENDED that the language tag not contain extensions not
supported by that protocol. In addition, note that some protocols
MAY impose upper limits on the length of the strings used to store or
transport the language tag.
3.8. Update of the Language Subtag Registry
After the adoption of this document, the IANA Language Subtag
Registry needed an update so that it would contain the complete set
of subtags valid in a language tag. [RFC5645] describes the process
used to create this update.
Registrations that are in process under the rules defined in
[RFC4646] when this document is adopted MUST be completed under the
rules contained in this document.
3.9. Applicability of the Subtag Registry
The Language Subtag Registry is the source of data elements used to
construct language tags, following the rules described in this
document. Language tags are designed for indicating linguistic
attributes of various content, including not only text but also most
media formats, such as video or audio. They also form the basis for
language and locale negotiation in various protocols and APIs.
The registry is therefore applicable to many applications that need
some form of language identification, with these limitations:
o It is not designed to be the sole data source in the creation of a
language-selection user interface. For example, the registry does
not contain translations for subtag descriptions or for tags
composed from the subtags. Sources for localized data based on
the registry are generally available, notably [CLDR]. Nor does
the registry indicate which subtag combinations are particularly
useful or relevant.
o It does not provide information indicating relationships between
different languages, such as might be used in a user interface to
select language tags hierarchically, regionally, or on some other
o It does not supply information about potential overlap between
different language tags, as the notion of what constitutes a
language is not precise: several different language tags might be
reasonable choices for the same given piece of content.
o It does not contain information about appropriate fallback choices
when performing language negotiation. A good fallback language
might be linguistically unrelated to the specified language. The
fact that one language is often used as a fallback language for
another is usually a result of outside factors, such as geography,
history, or culture -- factors that might not apply in all cases.
For example, most people who use Breton (a Celtic language used in
the Northwest of France) would probably prefer to be served French
(a Romance language) if Breton isn't available.
4. Formation and Processing of Language Tags
This section addresses how to use the information in the registry
with the tag syntax to choose, form, and process language tags.
4.1. Choice of Language Tag
The guiding principle in forming language tags is to "tag content
wisely." Sometimes there is a choice between several possible tags
for the same content. The choice of which tag to use depends on the
content and application in question, and some amount of judgment
might be necessary when selecting a tag.
Interoperability is best served when the same language tag is used
consistently 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
Standards, protocols, and applications that reference this document
normatively but apply different rules to the ones given in this
section MUST specify how language tag selection varies from the
guidelines given here.
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 valid language tag can become invalid,
nor will a language tag have a narrower scope in the future (it may
have a broader scope). The most appropriate language tag for a given
application or content item might evolve over time, but once applied,
the tag itself cannot become invalid or have its meaning wholly
A subtag SHOULD only be used when it adds useful distinguishing
information to the tag. Extraneous subtags interfere with the
meaning, understanding, and processing of language tags. In
particular, users and implementations SHOULD follow the 'Prefix' and
'Suppress-Script' fields in the registry (defined in Section 3.1):
these fields provide guidance on when specific additional subtags
SHOULD be used or avoided in a language tag.
The choice of subtags used to form a language tag SHOULD follow these
1. Use as precise a tag as possible, but no more specific than is
justified. Avoid using subtags that are not important for
distinguishing content in an application.
* For example, 'de' might suffice for tagging an email written
in German, while "de-CH-1996" is probably unnecessarily
precise for such a task.
* Note that some subtag sequences might not represent the
language a casual user might expect. For example, the Swiss
German (Schweizerdeutsch) language is represented by "gsw-CH"
and not by "de-CH". This latter tag represents German ('de')
as used in Switzerland ('CH'), also known as Swiss High German
(Schweizer Hochdeutsch). Both are real languages, and
distinguishing between them could be important to an
2. The script subtag SHOULD NOT be used to form language tags unless
the script adds some distinguishing information to the tag.
Script subtags were first formally defined in [RFC4646]. Their
use can affect matching and subtag identification for
implementations of [RFC1766] or [RFC3066] (which are obsoleted by
this document), as these subtags appear between the primary
language and region subtags. Some 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 are never
appropriate for unwritten content (such as audio recordings).
The field 'Suppress-Script' in the primary or extended language
record in the registry indicates script subtags that do not add
distinguishing information for most applications; this field
defines when users SHOULD NOT include a script subtag with a
particular primary language subtag.
For example, if an implementation selects content using Basic
Filtering [RFC4647] (originally described in Section 14.4 of
[RFC2616]) and the user requested the language range "en-US",
content labeled "en-Latn-US" will not match the request and thus
not be selected. Therefore, it is important to know when script
subtags will customarily be used and when they ought not be used.
* The subtag 'Latn' should not be used with the primary language
'en' because nearly all English documents are written in the
Latin script and it adds no distinguishing information.
However, if a document were written in English mixing Latin
script with another script such as Braille ('Brai'), then it
might be appropriate to choose to indicate both scripts to aid
in content selection, such as the application of a style
* When labeling content that is unwritten (such as a recording
of human speech), the script subtag should not be used, even
if the language is customarily written in several scripts.
Thus, the subtitles to a movie might use the tag "uz-Arab"
(Uzbek, Arabic script), but the audio track for the same
language would be tagged simply "uz". (The tag "uz-Zxxx"
could also be used where content is not written, as the subtag
'Zxxx' represents the "Code for unwritten documents".)
3. If a tag or subtag has a 'Preferred-Value' field in its registry
entry, then the value of that field SHOULD be used to form the
language tag in preference to the tag or subtag in which the
preferred value appears.
* For example, use 'jbo' for Lojban in preference to the
grandfathered tag "art-lojban".
4. Use subtags or sequences of subtags for individual languages in
preference to subtags for language collections. A "language
collection" is a group of languages that are descended from a
common ancestor, are spoken in the same geographical area, or are
otherwise related. Certain language collections are assigned
codes by [ISO639-5] (and some of these [ISO639-5] codes are also
defined as collections in [ISO639-2]). These codes are included
as primary language subtags in the registry. Subtags for a
language collection in the registry have a 'Scope' field with a
value of 'collection'. A subtag for a language collection is
always preferred to less specific alternatives such as 'mul' and
'und' (see below), and a subtag representing a language
collection MAY be used when more specific language information is
not available. However, most users and implementations do not
know there is a relationship between the collection and its
individual languages. In addition, the relationship between the
individual languages in the collection is not well defined; in
particular, the languages are usually not mutually intelligible.
Since the subtags are different, a request for the collection
will typically only produce items tagged with the collection's
subtag, not items tagged with subtags for the individual
languages contained in the collection.
* For example, collections are interpreted inclusively, so the
subtag 'gem' (Germanic languages) could, but SHOULD NOT, be
used with content that would be better tagged with "en"
(English), "de" (German), or "gsw" (Swiss German, Alemannic).
While 'gem' collects all of these (and other) languages, most
implementations will not match 'gem' to the individual
languages; thus, using the subtag will not produce the desired
5. [ISO639-2] has defined several codes included in the subtag
registry that require additional care when choosing language
tags. In most of these cases, where omitting the language tag is
permitted, such omission is preferable to using these codes.
Language tags SHOULD NOT incorporate these subtags as a prefix,
unless the additional information conveys some value to the
* The 'mul' (Multiple) primary language subtag identifies
content in multiple languages. This subtag SHOULD NOT be used
when a list of languages or individual tags for each content
element can be used instead. For example, the 'Content-
Language' header [RFC3282] allows a list of languages to be
used, not just a single language tag.
* The 'und' (Undetermined) primary language subtag identifies
linguistic content whose language is not determined. This
subtag SHOULD NOT be used unless a language tag is required
and language information is not available or cannot be
determined. Omitting the language tag (where permitted) is
preferred. The 'und' subtag might be useful for protocols
that require a language tag to be provided or where a primary
language subtag is required (such as in "und-Latn"). The
'und' subtag MAY also be useful when matching language tags in
* The 'zxx' (Non-Linguistic, Not Applicable) primary language
subtag identifies content for which a language classification
is inappropriate or does not apply. Some examples might
include instrumental or electronic music; sound recordings
consisting of nonverbal sounds; audiovisual materials with no
narration, dialog, printed titles, or subtitles; machine-
readable data files consisting of machine languages or
character codes; or programming source code.
* The 'mis' (Uncoded) primary language subtag identifies content
whose language is known but that does not currently have a
corresponding subtag. This subtag SHOULD NOT be used.
Because the addition of other codes in the future can render
its application invalid, it is inherently unstable and hence
incompatible with the stability goals of BCP 47. It is always
preferable to use other subtags: either 'und' or (with prior
agreement) private use subtags.
6. Use variant subtags sparingly and in the correct order. Most
variant subtags have one or more 'Prefix' fields in the registry
that express the list of subtags with which they are appropriate.
Variants SHOULD only be used with subtags that appear in one of
these 'Prefix' fields. If a variant lists a second variant in
one of its 'Prefix' fields, the first variant SHOULD appear
directly after the second variant in any language tag where both
occur. General purpose variants (those with no 'Prefix' fields
at all) SHOULD appear after any other variant subtags. Order any
remaining variants by placing the most significant subtag first.
If none of the subtags is more significant or no relationship can
be determined, alphabetize the subtags. Because variants are
very specialized, using many of them together generally makes the
tag so narrow as to override the additional precision gained.
Putting the subtags into another order interferes with
interoperability, as well as the overall interpretation of the
* The tag "en-scotland-fonipa" (English, Scottish dialect, IPA
phonetic transcription) is correctly ordered because
'scotland' has a 'Prefix' of "en", while 'fonipa' has no
* The tag "sl-IT-rozaj-biske-1994" is correctly ordered: 'rozaj'
lists "sl" as its sole 'Prefix'; 'biske' lists "sl-rozaj" as
its sole 'Prefix'. The subtag '1994' has several prefixes,
including "sl-rozaj". However, it follows both 'rozaj' and
'biske' because one of its 'Prefix' fields is "sl-rozaj-
7. The grandfathered tag "i-default" (Default Language) was
originally registered according to [RFC1766] to meet the needs of
[RFC2277]. It is not used to indicate a specific language, but
rather to identify the condition or content used where the
language preferences of the user cannot be established. It
SHOULD NOT be used except as a means of labeling the default
content for applications or protocols that require default
language content to be labeled with that specific tag. It MAY
also be used by an application or protocol to identify when the
default language content is being returned.
4.1.1. Tagging Encompassed Languages
Some primary language records in the registry have a 'Macrolanguage'
field (Section 3.1.10) that contains a mapping from each "encompassed
language" to its macrolanguage. The 'Macrolanguage' mapping doesn't
define what the relationship between the encompassed language and its
macrolanguage is, nor does it define how languages encompassed by the
same macrolanguage are related to each other. Two different
languages encompassed by the same macrolanguage may differ from one
another more than, say, French and Spanish do.
A few specific macrolanguages, such as Chinese ('zh') and Arabic
('ar'), are handled differently. See Section 4.1.2.
The more specific encompassed language subtag SHOULD be used to form
the language tag, although either the macrolanguage's primary
language subtag or the encompassed language's subtag MAY be used.
This means, for example, tagging Plains Cree with 'crk' rather than
'cr' (Cree), and so forth.
Each macrolanguage subtag's scope, by definition, includes all of its
encompassed languages. Since the relationship between encompassed
languages varies, users cannot assume that the macrolanguage subtag
means any particular encompassed language, nor that any given pair of
encompassed languages are mutually intelligible or otherwise
Applications MAY use macrolanguage information to improve matching or
language negotiation. For example, the information that 'sr'
(Serbian) and 'hr' (Croatian) share a macrolanguage expresses a
closer relation between those languages than between, say, 'sr'
(Serbian) and 'ma' (Macedonian). However, this relationship is not
guaranteed nor is it exclusive. For example, Romanian ('ro') and
Moldavian ('mo') do not share a macrolanguage, but are far more
closely related to each other than Cantonese ('yue') and Wu ('wuu'),
which do share a macrolanguage.
4.1.2. Using Extended Language Subtags
To accommodate language tag forms used prior to the adoption of this
document, language tags provide a special compatibility mechanism:
the extended language subtag. Selected languages have been provided
with both primary and extended language subtags. These include
macrolanguages, such as Malay ('ms') and Uzbek ('uz'), that have a
specific dominant variety that is generally synonymous with the
macrolanguage. Other languages, such as the Chinese ('zh') and
Arabic ('ar') macrolanguages and the various sign languages ('sgn'),
have traditionally used their primary language subtag, possibly
coupled with various region subtags or as part of a registered
grandfathered tag, to indicate the language.
With the adoption of this document, specific ISO 639-3 subtags became
available to identify the languages contained within these diverse
language families or groupings. This presents a choice of language
tags where previously none existed:
o Each encompassed language's subtag SHOULD be used as the primary
language subtag. For example, a document in Mandarin Chinese
would be tagged "cmn" (the subtag for Mandarin Chinese) in
preference to "zh" (Chinese).
o If compatibility is desired or needed, the encompassed subtag MAY
be used as an extended language subtag. For example, a document
in Mandarin Chinese could be tagged "zh-cmn" instead of either
"cmn" or "zh".
o The macrolanguage or prefixing subtag MAY still be used to form
the tag instead of the more specific encompassed language subtag.
That is, tags such as "zh-HK" or "sgn-RU" are still valid.
Chinese ('zh') provides a useful illustration of this. In the past,
various content has used tags beginning with the 'zh' subtag, with
application-specific meaning being associated with region codes,
private use sequences, or grandfathered registered values. This is
because historically only the macrolanguage subtag 'zh' was available
for forming language tags. However, the languages encompassed by the
Chinese subtag 'zh' are, in the main, not mutually intelligible when
spoken, and the written forms of these languages also show wide
variation in form and usage.
To provide compatibility, Chinese languages encompassed by the 'zh'
subtag are in the registry both as primary language subtags and as
extended language subtags. For example, the ISO 639-3 code for
Cantonese is 'yue'. Content in Cantonese might historically have
used a tag such as "zh-HK" (since Cantonese is commonly spoken in
Hong Kong), although that tag actually means any type of Chinese as
used in Hong Kong. With the availability of ISO 639-3 codes in the
registry, content in Cantonese can be directly tagged using the 'yue'
subtag. The content can use it as a primary language subtag, as in
the tag "yue-HK" (Cantonese, Hong Kong). Or it can use an extended
language subtag with 'zh', as in the tag "zh-yue-Hant" (Chinese,
Cantonese, Traditional script).
As noted above, applications can choose to use the macrolanguage
subtag to form the tag instead of using the more specific encompassed
language subtag. For example, an application with large quantities
of data already using tags with the 'zh' (Chinese) subtag might
continue to use this more general subtag even for new data, even
though the content could be more precisely tagged with 'cmn'
(Mandarin), 'yue' (Cantonese), 'wuu' (Wu), and so on. Similarly, an
application already using tags that start with the 'ar' (Arabic)
subtag might continue to use this more general subtag even for new
data, which could be more precisely tagged with 'arb' (Standard
In some cases, the encompassed languages had tags registered for them
during the RFC 3066 era. Those grandfathered tags not already
deprecated or rendered redundant were deprecated in the registry upon
adoption of this document. As grandfathered values, they remain
valid for use, and some content or applications might use them. As
with other grandfathered tags, since implementations might not be
able to associate the grandfathered tags with the encompassed
language subtag equivalents that are recommended by this document,
implementations are encouraged to canonicalize tags for comparison
purposes. Some examples of this include the tags "zh-hakka" (Hakka)
and "zh-guoyu" (Mandarin or Standard Chinese).
Sign languages share a mode of communication rather than a linguistic
heritage. There are many sign languages that have developed
independently, and the subtag 'sgn' indicates only the presence of a
sign language. A number of sign languages also had grandfathered
tags registered for them during the RFC 3066 era. For example, the
grandfathered tag "sgn-US" was registered to represent 'American Sign
Language' specifically, without reference to the United States. This
is still valid, but deprecated: a document in American Sign Language
can be labeled either "ase" or "sgn-ase" (the 'ase' subtag is for the
language called 'American Sign Language').
4.2. Meaning of the Language Tag
The meaning of a language tag is related to the meaning of the
subtags that it contains. Each subtag, in turn, implies a certain
range of expectations one might have for related content, although it
is not a guarantee. For example, the use of a script subtag such as
'Arab' (Arabic script) does not mean that the content contains only
Arabic characters. It does mean that the language involved is
predominantly in the Arabic script. Thus, a language tag and its
subtags can encompass a very wide range of variation and yet remain
appropriate in each particular instance.
Validity of a tag is not the only factor determining its usefulness.
While every valid tag has a meaning, it might not represent any real-
world language usage. This is unavoidable in a system in which
subtags can be combined freely. For example, tags such as
"ar-Cyrl-CO" (Arabic, Cyrillic script, as used in Colombia) or "tlh-
Kore-AQ-fonipa" (Klingon, Korean script, as used in Antarctica, IPA
phonetic transcription) are both valid and unlikely to represent a
useful combination of language attributes.
The meaning of a given tag doesn't depend on the context in which it
appears. The relationship between a tag's meaning and the
information objects to which that tag is applied, however, can vary.
o For a single information object, the associated language tags
might be interpreted as the set of languages that is necessary for
a complete comprehension of the complete object. Example: Plain
o For an aggregation of information objects, the associated language
tags could be taken as the set of languages used inside components
of that aggregation. Examples: Document stores and libraries.
o For information objects whose purpose is to provide alternatives,
the associated language tags could be regarded as a hint that the
content is provided in several languages and that one has to
inspect each of the alternatives in order to find its language or
languages. In this case, the presence of multiple tags might not
mean that one needs to be multilingual to get complete
understanding of the document. Example: MIME multipart/
o For markup languages, such as HTML and XML, language information
can be added to each part of the document identified by the markup
structure (including the whole document itself). For example, one
could write <span lang="fr">C'est la vie.</span> inside a German
document; the German-speaking user could then access a French-
German dictionary to find out what the marked section meant. If
the user were listening to that document through a speech
synthesis interface, this formation could be used to signal the
synthesizer to appropriately apply French text-to-speech
pronunciation rules to that span of text, instead of applying the
inappropriate German rules.
o For markup languages and document formats that allow the audience
to be identified, a language tag could indicate the audience(s)
appropriate for that document. For example, the same HTML
document described in the preceding bullet might have an HTTP
header "Content-Language: de" to indicate that the intended
audience for the file is German (even though three words appear
and are identified as being in French within it).
o For systems and APIs, language tags form the basis for most
implementations of locale identifiers. For example, see Unicode's
CLDR (Common Locale Data Repository) (see UTS #35 [UTS35])
Language tags are related when they contain a similar sequence of
subtags. For example, if a language tag B contains language tag A as
a prefix, then B is typically "narrower" or "more specific" than A.
Thus, "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 might 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 might not be able to read the other, even though the
linguistic content (e.g., what would be heard if both texts were read
aloud) 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.
Similarly, not all subtags specify an actual distinction in language.
For example, the tags "en-US" and "en-CA" mean, roughly, English with
features generally thought to be characteristic of the United States
and Canada, respectively. They do not imply that a significant
dialectical boundary exists between any arbitrarily selected point in
the United States and any arbitrarily selected point in Canada.
Neither does a particular region subtag imply that linguistic
distinctions do not exist within that region.
4.3. Lists of Languages
In some applications, a single content item might best be associated
with more than one language tag. Examples of such a usage include:
o Content items that contain multiple, distinct varieties. Often
this is used to indicate an appropriate audience for a given
content item when multiple choices might be appropriate. Examples
of this could include:
* Metadata about the appropriate audience for a movie title. For
example, a DVD might label its individual audio tracks 'de'
(German), 'fr' (French), and 'es' (Spanish), but the overall
title would list "de, fr, es" as its overall audience.
* A French/English, English/French dictionary tagged as both "en"
and "fr" to specify that it applies equally to French and
* A side-by-side or interlinear translation of a document, as is
commonly done with classical works in Latin or Greek.
o Content items that contain a single language but that require
multiple levels of specificity. For example, a library might wish
to classify a particular work as both Norwegian ('no') and as
Nynorsk ('nn') for audiences capable of appreciating the
distinction or needing to select content more narrowly.
4.4. Length Considerations
There is no defined upper limit on the size of language tags. While
historically most language tags have consisted of language and region
subtags with a combined total length of up to six characters, larger
tags have always been both possible and have actually appeared in
Neither the language tag syntax nor other requirements in this
document impose a fixed upper limit on the number of subtags in a
language tag (and thus an upper bound on the size of a tag). The
language tag syntax suggests that, depending on the specific
language, more subtags (and thus a longer tag) are sometimes
necessary to completely identify the language for certain
applications; thus, it is possible to envision long or complex subtag
4.4.1. Working with Limited Buffer Sizes
Some applications and protocols are forced to allocate fixed buffer
sizes or otherwise limit the length of a language tag. A conformant
implementation or specification MAY refuse to support the storage of
language tags that exceed a specified length. Any such limitation
SHOULD be clearly documented, and such documentation SHOULD include
what happens to longer tags (for example, whether an error value is
generated or the language tag is truncated). A protocol that allows
tags to be truncated at an arbitrary limit, without giving any
indication of what that limit is, has the potential to cause harm by
changing the meaning of tags in substantial ways.
In practice, most language tags do not require more than a few
subtags and will not approach reasonably sized buffer limitations;
see Section 4.1.
Some specifications or protocols have limits on tag length but do not
have a fixed length limitation. For example, [RFC2231] has no
explicit length limitation: the length available for the language tag
is constrained by the length of other header components (such as the
charset's name) coupled with the 76-character limit in [RFC2047].
Thus, the "limit" might be 50 or more characters, but it could
potentially be quite small.
The considerations for assigning a buffer limit are:
Implementations SHOULD NOT truncate language tags unless the
meaning of the tag is purposefully being changed, or unless the
tag does not fit into a limited buffer size specified by a
protocol for storage or transmission.
Implementations SHOULD warn the user when a tag is truncated since
truncation changes the semantic meaning of the tag.
Implementations of protocols or specifications that are space
constrained but do not have a fixed limit SHOULD use the longest
possible tag in preference to truncation.
Protocols or specifications that specify limited buffer sizes for
language tags MUST allow for language tags of at least 35
characters. Note that [RFC4646] recommended a minimum field size
of 42 characters because it included all three elements of the
'extlang' production. Two of these are now permanently reserved,
so a registered primary language subtag of the maximum length of 8
characters is now longer than the longest language-extlang
combination. Protocols or specifications that commonly use
extensions or private use subtags might wish to reserve or
recommend a longer "minimum buffer" size.
The following illustration shows how the 35-character recommendation
language = 8 ; longest allowed registered value
; longer than primary+extlang
; which requires 7 characters
script = 5 ; if not suppressed: see Section 4.1
region = 4 ; UN M.49 numeric region code
; ISO 3166-1 codes require 3
variant1 = 9 ; needs 'language' as a prefix
variant2 = 9 ; very rare, as it needs
; 'language-variant1' as a prefix
total = 35 characters
Figure 7: Derivation of the Limit on Tag Length
4.4.2. Truncation of Language Tags
Truncation of a language tag alters the meaning of the tag, and thus
SHOULD be avoided. However, truncation of language tags is sometimes
necessary due to limited buffer sizes. Such truncation MUST NOT
permit a subtag to be chopped off in the middle or the formation of
invalid tags (for example, one ending with the "-" character).
This means that applications or protocols that truncate tags MUST do
so by progressively removing subtags along with their preceding "-"
from the right side of the language tag until the tag is short enough
for the given buffer. If the resulting tag ends with a single-
character subtag, that subtag and its preceding "-" MUST also be
removed. For example:
Tag to truncate: zh-Latn-CN-variant1-a-extend1-x-wadegile-private1
Figure 8: Example of Tag Truncation
4.5. Canonicalization of Language Tags
Since a particular language tag can be used by many processes,
language tags SHOULD always be created or generated in canonical
A language tag is in 'canonical form' when the tag is well-formed
according to the rules in Sections 2.1 and 2.2 and it has been
canonicalized by applying each of the following steps in order, using
data from the IANA registry (see Section 3.1):
1. Extension sequences are ordered into case-insensitive ASCII order
by singleton subtag.
* For example, the subtag sequence '-a-babble' comes before
2. Redundant or grandfathered tags are replaced by their 'Preferred-
Value', if there is one.
* The field-body of the 'Preferred-Value' for grandfathered and
redundant tags is an "extended language range" [RFC4647] and
might consist of more than one subtag.
* 'Preferred-Value' fields in the registry provide mappings from
deprecated tags to modern equivalents. Many of these were
created before the adoption of this document (such as the
mapping of "no-nyn" to "nn" or "i-klingon" to "tlh"). Others
are the result of later registrations or additions to the
registry as permitted or required by this document (for
example, "zh-hakka" was deprecated in favor of the ISO 639-3
code 'hak' when this document was adopted).
3. Subtags are replaced by their 'Preferred-Value', if there is one.
For extlangs, the original primary language subtag is also
replaced if there is a primary language subtag in the 'Preferred-
* The field-body of the 'Preferred-Value' for extlangs is an
"extended language range" and typically maps to a primary
language subtag. For example, the subtag sequence "zh-hak"
(Chinese, Hakka) is replaced with the subtag 'hak' (Hakka).
* Most of the non-extlang subtags are either Region subtags
where the country name or designation has changed or clerical
corrections to ISO 639-1.
The canonical form contains no 'extlang' subtags. There is an
alternate 'extlang form' that maintains or reinstates extlang
subtags. This form can be useful in environments where the presence
of the 'Prefix' subtag is considered beneficial in matching or
selection (see Section 4.1.2).
A language tag is in 'extlang form' when the tag is well-formed
according to the rules in Sections 2.1 and 2.2 and it has been
processed by applying each of the following two steps in order, using
data from the IANA registry:
1. The language tag is first transformed into canonical form, as
2. If the language tag starts with a primary language subtag that is
also an extlang subtag, then the language tag is prepended with
the extlang's 'Prefix'.
* For example, "hak-CN" (Hakka, China) has the primary language
subtag 'hak', which in turn has an 'extlang' record with a
'Prefix' 'zh' (Chinese). The extlang form is "zh-hak-CN"
(Chinese, Hakka, China).
* Note that Step 2 (prepending a prefix) can restore a subtag
that was removed by Step 1 (canonicalizing).
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 and potentially
valid (extensions 'a' and 'b' are not defined as of the publication
of this document) but not in canonical form (the extensions are not
in alphabetical order).
Example: Although the tag "en-BU" (English as used in Burma)
maintains its validity, the language tag "en-BU" is not in canonical
form because the 'BU' subtag has a canonical mapping to 'MM'
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). All comparisons MUST be
performed in a case-insensitive manner.
When performing canonicalization of language tags, processors MAY
regularize the case of the subtags (that is, this process is
OPTIONAL), following the case used in the registry (see
If more than one variant appears within a tag, processors MAY reorder
the variants to obtain better matching behavior or more consistent
presentation. Reordering of the variants SHOULD follow the
recommendations for variant ordering in Section 4.1.
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. These values are canonical when
they appear in a language tag. However, tags that include these
values SHOULD NOT be selected by users or generated by
An extension MUST define any relationships that 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 is 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
4.6. Considerations for Private Use Subtags
Private use subtags, like all other subtags, MUST conform to the
format and content constraints in the ABNF. Private use subtags have
no meaning outside the private agreement between the parties that
intend to use or exchange language tags that employ them. The same
subtags MAY be used with a different meaning under a separate private
agreement. They SHOULD NOT be used where alternatives exist and
SHOULD NOT be used 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.
Private use sequences introduced by the 'x' singleton are completely
opaque to users or implementations outside of the private use
agreement. So, in addition to private use subtag sequences
introduced by the singleton subtag 'x', the Language Subtag Registry
provides private use language, script, and region subtags derived
from the private use codes assigned by the underlying standards.
These subtags are valid for use in forming language tags; they are
RECOMMENDED over the 'x' singleton private use subtag sequences
because they convey more information via their linkage to the
language tag's inherent structure.
For example, the region subtags 'AA', 'ZZ', and those in the ranges
'QM'-'QZ' and 'XA'-'XZ' (derived from the ISO 3166-1 private use
codes) can 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" or even "zh-Hans-x-xq" (where the
'xq' subtag's meaning is entirely opaque).
However, in some cases content tagged with private use subtags can
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 sometimes depends on the
particular domain in question.
5. IANA Considerations
This section deals with the processes and requirements necessary for
IANA to maintain the subtag and extension registries as defined by
this document and in accordance with the requirements of [RFC5226].
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. IANA also is required to create a new mailing
list (described below in Section 5.1) to announce registry changes
5.1. Language Subtag Registry
IANA updated the registry using instructions and content provided in
a companion document [RFC5645]. The criteria and process for
selecting the updated set of records are described in that document.
The updated set of records represents no impact on IANA, since the
work to create it will be performed externally.
Future work on the Language Subtag Registry includes the following
o Inserting or replacing whole records. These records are
preformatted for IANA by the Language Subtag Reviewer, as
described in Section 3.3.
o Archiving and making publicly available the registration forms.
o Announcing each updated version of the registry on the
"email@example.com" mailing list.
Each registration form sent to IANA contains a single record for
incorporation into the registry. The form will be sent to
<firstname.lastname@example.org> by the Language Subtag Reviewer. It will have a
subject line indicating whether the enclosed form represents an
insertion of a new record (indicated by the word "INSERT" in the
subject line) or a replacement of an existing record (indicated by
the word "MODIFY" in the subject line). At no time can a record be
deleted from the registry.
IANA will extract the record from the form and place the inserted or
modified record into the appropriate section of the Language Subtag
Registry, grouping the records by their 'Type' field. Inserted
records can be placed anywhere within the appropriate section; there
is no guarantee that the registry's records will be placed in any
particular order except that they will always be grouped by 'Type'.
Modified records overwrite the record they replace.
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. The date format SHALL be the "full-
date" format of [RFC3339]. The date SHALL be the date on which that
version of the registry was first published by IANA. There SHALL be
at most one version of the registry published in a day. A 'File-
Date' record is also included in each request to IANA to insert or
modify records, indicating the acceptance date of the records in the
The updated registry file MUST use the UTF-8 character encoding, and
IANA MUST check the registry file for proper encoding. Non-ASCII
characters can be sent to IANA by attaching the registration form to
the email message or by using various encodings in the mail message
body (UTF-8 is recommended). IANA will verify any unclear or
corrupted characters with the Language Subtag Reviewer prior to
posting the updated registry.
IANA will also archive and make publicly available from
http://www.iana.org each registration form. Note that multiple
registrations can pertain to the same record in the registry.
Developers who are dependent upon the Language Subtag Registry
sometimes would like to be informed of changes in the registry so
that they can update their implementations. When any change is made
to the Language Subtag Registry, IANA will send an announcement
message to <email@example.com> (a self-
subscribing list to which only IANA can post).
5.2. Extensions Registry
The Language Tag Extensions Registry can 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
MUST include the record to insert in the exact format described in
Section 3.7. 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. IANA
SHOULD take reasonable steps to ascertain that the request comes from
the maintaining authority named in the record present in the
6. Security Considerations
Language tags used in content negotiation, like any other information
exchanged on the Internet, might be a source of concern because they
might 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
[RFC3552] for best current practice guidance on security threats and
The language tag associated with a particular information item is of
no consequence whatsoever in determining whether that content might
contain possible homographs. The fact that a text is tagged as being
in one language or using a particular script subtag provides no
assurance whatsoever that it does not contain characters from scripts
other than the one(s) associated with or specified by that language
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 4.4 for details on language tag truncation,
which can occur as a consequence of defenses against buffer overflow.
To prevent denial-of-service attacks, applications SHOULD NOT depend
on either the Language Subtag Registry or the Language Tag Extensions
Registry being always accessible. Additionally, although the
specification of valid subtags for an extension (see Section 3.7)
MUST be available over the Internet, implementations SHOULD NOT
mechanically depend on those sources being always accessible.
The registries specified in this document are not suitable for
frequent or real-time access to, or retrieval of, the full registry
contents. Most applications do not need registry data at all. For
others, being able to validate or canonicalize language tags as of a
particular registry date will be sufficient, as the registry contents
change only occasionally. Changes are announced to
<firstname.lastname@example.org>. This mailing list is
intended for interested organizations and individuals, not for bulk
subscription to trigger automatic software updates. The size of the
registry makes it unsuitable for automatic software updates.
Implementers considering integrating the Language Subtag Registry in
an automatic updating scheme are strongly advised to distribute only
suitably encoded differences, and only via their own infrastructure
-- not directly from IANA.
Changes, or the absence thereof, can also easily be detected by
looking at the 'File-Date' record at the start of the registry, or by
using features of the protocol used for downloading, without having
to download the full registry. At the time of publication of this
document, IANA is making the Language Tag Registry available over
HTTP 1.1. The proper way to update a local copy of the Language
Subtag Registry using HTTP 1.1 is to use a conditional GET [RFC2616].
7. Character Set Considerations
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 shouldn't have
any character set issues.
The rendering of text based on the language tag is not addressed
here. Historically, some processes have relied on the use of
character set/encoding information (or other external information) in
order to infer how a specific string of characters should be
rendered. Notably, this applies to language- and culture-specific
variations of Han ideographs as used in Japanese, Chinese, and
Korean, where use of, for example, a Japanese character encoding such
as EUC-JP implies that the text itself is in Japanese. When language
tags are applied to spans of text, rendering engines might be able to
use that information to better select fonts or make other rendering
choices, particularly where languages with distinct writing
traditions use the same characters.
8. Changes from RFC 4646
The main goal for this revision of RFC 4646 was to incorporate two
new parts of ISO 639 (ISO 639-3 and ISO 639-5) and their attendant
sets of language codes into the IANA Language Subtag Registry. This
permits the identification of many more languages and language
collections than previously supported.
The specific changes in this document to meet these goals are:
o Defined the incorporation of ISO 639-3 and ISO 639-5 codes for use
as primary and extended language subtags. It also permanently
reserves and disallows the use of additional 'extlang' subtags.
The changes necessary to achieve this were:
* Modified the ABNF comments.
* Updated various registration and stability requirements
sections to reference ISO 639-3 and ISO 639-5 in addition to
ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2.
* Edited the text to eliminate references to extended language
subtags where they are no longer used.
* Explained the change in the section on extended language
o Changed the ABNF related to grandfathered tags. The irregular
tags are now listed. Well-formed grandfathered tags are now
described by the 'langtag' production, and the 'grandfathered'
production was removed as a result. Also: added description of
both types of grandfathered tags to Section 2.2.8.
o Added the paragraph on "collections" to Section 4.1.
o Changed the capitalization rules for 'Tag' fields in Section 3.1.
o Split Section 3.1 up into subsections.
o Modified Section 3.5 to allow 'Suppress-Script' fields to be
added, modified, or removed via the registration process. This
was an erratum from RFC 4646.
o Modified examples that used region code 'CS' (formerly Serbia and
Montenegro) to use 'RS' (Serbia) instead.
o Modified the rules for creating and maintaining record
'Description' fields to prevent duplicates, including inverted
o Removed the lengthy description of why RFC 4646 was created from
this section, which also caused the removal of the reference to
o Modified the text in Section 2.1 to place more emphasis on the
fact that language tags are not case sensitive.
o Replaced the example "fr-Latn-CA" in Section 2.1 with "sr-Latn-RS"
and "az-Arab-IR" because "fr-Latn-CA" doesn't respect the
'Suppress-Script' on 'Latn' with 'fr'.
o Changed the requirements for well-formedness to make singleton
repetition checking optional (it is required for validity
checking) in Section 2.2.9.
o Changed the text in Section 2.2.9 referring to grandfathered
checking to note that the list is now included in the ABNF.
o Modified and added text to Section 3.2. The job description was
placed first. A note was added making clear that the Language
Subtag Reviewer may delegate various non-critical duties,
including list moderation. Finally, additional text was added to
make the appointment process clear and to clarify that decisions
and performance of the reviewer are appealable.
o Added text to Section 3.5 clarifying that the
email@example.com list is operated by whomever the IESG
o Added text to Section 3.1.5 clarifying that the first Description
in a 'language' record matches the corresponding Reference Name
for the language in ISO 639-3.
o Modified Section 2.2.9 to define classes of conformance related to
specific tags (formerly 'well-formed' and 'valid' referred to
implementations). Notes were added about the removal of 'extlang'
from the ABNF provided in RFC 4646, allowing for well-formedness
using this older definition. Reference to RFC 3066 well-
formedness was also added.
o Added text to the end of Section 3.1.2 noting that future versions
of this document might add new field types to the registry format
and recommending that implementations ignore any unrecognized
o Added text about what the lack of a 'Suppress-Script' field means
in a record to Section 3.1.9.
o Added text allowing the correction of misspellings and typographic
errors to Section 3.1.5.
o Added text to Section 3.1.8 disallowing 'Prefix' field conflicts
(such as circular prefix references).
o Modified text in Section 3.5 to require the subtag reviewer to
announce his/her decision (or extension) following the two-week
period. Also clarified that any decision or failure to decide can
o Modified text in Section 4.1 to include the (heretofore anecdotal)
guiding principle of tag choice, and clarifying the non-use of
script subtags in non-written applications.
o Prohibited multiple use of the same variant in a tag (i.e., "de-
1901-1901"). Previously, this was only a recommendation
o Removed inappropriate [RFC2119] language from the illustration in
o Replaced the example of deprecating "zh-guoyu" with "zh-
hakka"->"hak" in Section 4.5, noting that it was this document
that caused the change.
o Replaced the section in Section 4.1 dealing with "mul"/"und" to
include the subtags 'zxx' and 'mis', as well as the tag
"i-default". A normative reference to RFC 2277 was added.
o Added text to Section 3.5 clarifying that any modifications of a
registration request must be sent to the <firstname.lastname@example.org>
list before submission to IANA.
o Changed the ABNF for the record-jar format from using the LWSP
production to use a folding whitespace production similar to obs-
FWS in [RFC5234]. This effectively prevents unintentional blank
lines inside a field.
o Clarified and revised text in Sections 3.3, 3.5, and 5.1 to
clarify that the Language Subtag Reviewer sends the complete
registration forms to IANA, that IANA extracts the record from the
form, and that the forms must also be archived separately from the
o Added text to Section 5 requiring IANA to send an announcement to
an ietf-languages-announcements list whenever the registry is
o Modification of the registry to use UTF-8 as its character
encoding. This also entails additional instructions to IANA and
the Language Subtag Reviewer in the registration process.
o Modified the rules in Section 2.2.4 so that "exceptionally
reserved" ISO 3166-1 codes other than 'UK' were included into the
registry. In particular, this allows the code 'EU' (European
Union) to be used to form language tags or (more commonly) for
applications that use the registry for region codes to reference
o Modified the IANA considerations section (Section 5) to remove
unnecessary normative [RFC2119] language.
9.1. Normative References
[ISO15924] International Organization for Standardization, "ISO
15924:2004. Information and documentation -- Codes
for the representation of names of scripts",
[ISO3166-1] International Organization for Standardization, "ISO
3166-1:2006. Codes for the representation of names
of countries and their subdivisions -- Part 1:
Country codes", November 2006.
[ISO639-1] International Organization for Standardization, "ISO
639-1:2002. Codes for the representation of names
of languages -- Part 1: Alpha-2 code", July 2002.
[ISO639-2] International Organization for Standardization, "ISO
639-2:1998. Codes for the representation of names
of languages -- Part 2: Alpha-3 code", October 1998.
[ISO639-3] International Organization for Standardization, "ISO
639-3:2007. Codes for the representation of names
of languages - Part 3: Alpha-3 code for
comprehensive coverage of languages", February 2007.
[ISO639-5] International Organization for Standardization, "ISO
639-5:2008. Codes for the representation of names of
languages -- Part 5: Alpha-3 code for language
families and groups", May 2008.
[ISO646] International Organization for Standardization,
"ISO/IEC 646:1991, Information technology -- ISO
7-bit coded character set for information
[RFC2026] Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process --
Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC2277] Alvestrand, H., "IETF Policy on Character Sets and
Languages", BCP 18, RFC 2277, January 1998.
[RFC3339] Klyne, G., Ed. and C. Newman, "Date and Time on the
Internet: Timestamps", RFC 3339, July 2002.
[RFC4647] Phillips, A. and M. Davis, "Matching of Language
Tags", BCP 47, RFC 4647, September 2006.
[RFC5226] Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for
Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs",
BCP 26, RFC 5226, May 2008.
[RFC5234] Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for
Syntax Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234,
[SpecialCasing] The Unicode Consoritum, "Unicode Character Database,
Special Casing Properties", March 2008, <http://
[UAX14] Freitag, A., "Unicode Standard Annex #14: Line
Breaking Properties", August 2006,
[UN_M.49] Statistics Division, United Nations, "Standard
Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use", Revision
4 (United Nations publication, Sales No. 98.XVII.9,
[Unicode] Unicode Consortium, "The Unicode Consortium. The
Unicode Standard, Version 5.0, (Boston, MA, Addison-
Wesley, 2003. ISBN 0-321-49081-0)", January 2007.
9.2. Informative References
[CLDR] "The Common Locale Data Repository Project",
[RFC1766] Alvestrand, H., "Tags for the Identification of
Languages", RFC 1766, March 1995.
[RFC2028] Hovey, R. and S. Bradner, "The Organizations
Involved in the IETF Standards Process", BCP 11,
RFC 2028, October 1996.
[RFC2046] Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "Multipurpose Internet
Mail Extensions (MIME) Part Two: Media Types",
RFC 2046, November 1996.
[RFC2047] Moore, K., "MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions) Part Three: Message Header Extensions
for Non-ASCII Text", RFC 2047, November 1996.
[RFC2231] Freed, N. and K. Moore, "MIME Parameter Value and
Encoded Word Extensions:
Character Sets, Languages, and Continuations",
RFC 2231, November 1997.
[RFC2616] Fielding, R., Gettys, J., Mogul, J., Frystyk, H.,
Masinter, L., Leach, P., and T. Berners-Lee,
"Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1", RFC 2616,
[RFC2781] Hoffman, P. and F. Yergeau, "UTF-16, an encoding of
ISO 10646", RFC 2781, February 2000.
[RFC3066] Alvestrand, H., "Tags for the Identification of
Languages", RFC 3066, January 2001.
[RFC3282] Alvestrand, H., "Content Language Headers",
RFC 3282, May 2002.
[RFC3552] Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, "Guidelines for Writing
RFC Text on Security Considerations", BCP 72,
RFC 3552, July 2003.
[RFC3629] Yergeau, F., "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO
10646", STD 63, RFC 3629, November 2003.
[RFC4645] Ewell, D., "Initial Language Subtag Registry",
RFC 4645, September 2006.
[RFC4646] Phillips, A. and M. Davis, "Tags for Identifying
Languages", BCP 47, RFC 4646, September 2006.
[RFC5645] Ewell, D., Ed., "Update to the Language Subtag
Registry", September 2009.
[UTS35] Davis, M., "Unicode Technical Standard #35: Locale
Data Markup Language (LDML)", December 2007,
[iso639.prin] ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee, "ISO 639 Joint
Advisory Committee: Working principles for ISO 639
maintenance", March 2000, <http://www.loc.gov/
[record-jar] Raymond, E., "The Art of Unix Programming", 2003,
Appendix A. Examples of Language Tags (Informative)
Simple language subtag:
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)
Extended language subtags and their primary language subtag
zh-cmn-Hans-CN (Chinese, Mandarin, Simplified script, as used in
cmn-Hans-CN (Mandarin Chinese, Simplified script, as used in
zh-yue-HK (Chinese, Cantonese, as used in Hong Kong SAR)
yue-HK (Cantonese Chinese, as used in Hong Kong SAR)
zh-Hans-CN (Chinese written using the Simplified script as used in
sr-Latn-RS (Serbian written using the Latin script as used in
sl-rozaj (Resian dialect of Slovenian)
sl-rozaj-biske (San Giorgio dialect of Resian dialect of
sl-nedis (Nadiza dialect of Slovenian)
de-CH-1901 (German as used in Switzerland using the 1901 variant
sl-IT-nedis (Slovenian as used in Italy, Nadiza dialect)
hy-Latn-IT-arevela (Eastern Armenian written in Latin script, as
used in Italy)
de-DE (German for Germany)
en-US (English as used in the United States)
es-419 (Spanish appropriate for the Latin America and Caribbean
region using the UN region code)
Private use subtags:
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-RS (Serbian, private script, for Serbia)
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
ar-a-aaa-b-bbb-a-ccc (two extensions with same single-letter
Appendix B. Examples of Registration Forms
LANGUAGE SUBTAG REGISTRATION FORM
1. Name of requester: Han Steenwijk
2. E-mail address of requester: han.steenwijk @ unipd.it
3. Record Requested:
Description: The San Giorgio dialect of Resian
Description: The Bila dialect of Resian
Comments: The dialect of San Giorgio/Bila is one of the
four major local dialects of Resian
4. Intended meaning of the subtag:
The local variety of Resian as spoken in San Giorgio/Bila
5. Reference to published description of the language (book or
-- Jan I.N. Baudouin de Courtenay - Opyt fonetiki rez'janskich
govorov, Varsava - Peterburg: Vende - Kozancikov, 1875.
LANGUAGE SUBTAG REGISTRATION FORM
1. Name of requester: Jaska Zedlik
2. E-mail address of requester: jz53 @ zedlik.com
3. Record Requested:
Description: Belarusian in Taraskievica orthography
Comments: The subtag represents Branislau Taraskievic's Belarusian
orthography as published in "Bielaruski klasycny pravapis" by
Juras Buslakou, Vincuk Viacorka, Zmicier Sanko, and Zmicier Sauka
4. Intended meaning of the subtag:
The subtag is intended to represent the Belarusian orthography as
published in "Bielaruski klasycny pravapis" by Juras Buslakou, Vincuk
Viacorka, Zmicier Sanko, and Zmicier Sauka (Vilnia-Miensk 2005).
5. Reference to published description of the language (book or
Taraskievic, Branislau. Bielaruskaja gramatyka dla skol. Vilnia: Vyd.
"Bielaruskaha kamitetu", 1929, 5th edition.
Buslakou, Juras; Viacorka, Vincuk; Sanko, Zmicier; Sauka, Zmicier.
Bielaruski klasycny pravapis. Vilnia-Miensk, 2005.
6. Any other relevant information:
Belarusian in Taraskievica orthography became widely used, especially
in Belarusian-speaking Internet segment, but besides this some books
and newspapers are also printed using this orthography of Belarusian.
Appendix C. Acknowledgements
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 4646, RFC 4647, 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 contributed to this document:
Stephane Bortzmeyer, Karen Broome, Peter Constable, John Cowan,
Martin Duerst, Frank Ellerman, Doug Ewell, Deborah Garside, Marion
Gunn, Alfred Hoenes, Kent Karlsson, Chris Newman, Randy Presuhn,
Stephen Silver, Shawn Steele, 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 go to Michael Everson, who served as the Language Tag
Reviewer for almost the entire RFC 1766/RFC 3066 period, as well as
the Language Subtag Reviewer since the adoption of RFC 4646.
Special thanks also go to Doug Ewell, for his production of the first
complete subtag registry, his work to support and maintain new
registrations, and his careful editorship of both RFC 4645 and
Addison Phillips (editor)
Mark Davis (editor)