Character position definition and scope:

The Language of the item is indicated by a three-character alphabetic MARC code.

The code is an authoritative-agency data element taken from the MARC Code List for Languages that is maintained by the Library of Congress.  Choice of a MARC code is based on the predominant language of the item.

Three fill characters ( ||| ) may be used if no attempt is made to code the language or if non-MARC language coding is preferred (and coded in field 041 (Language Code)).

National-level and Minimal-level record requirements for positions 008/35-37 for all types of material are Mandatory.

Validity by material type:  Valid for all types.

Guidelines for applying content designators:

For language material (i.e., books and continuing resources), the language code is based on the text of the item.  The term text refers to the principle work(s) included within the publication, excluding the preface, introduction, foreword, appendices, etc.

For computer files, the language associated with the data and/or the user interface (e.g., textual displays, audible output in a language) determines the code used in 008/35-37, not the programming language.  (Accompanying documentation in a language other than that of the data and/or user interface is coded in field 041.)

For maps, the language of names and text associated with the map or globe determines the code used.

For music, the predominant language of the sung or spoken text associated with the score or sound recording is recorded in 008/35-37.

For visual materials, coding depends on the type of material.  For moving image materials, the language content is defined as the sound track, the accompanying sound, or sign language.  For moving image materials with no sound or sign language content or, if with sound, no narration, use zxx (no linguistic content).  For filmstrips and slides, code for the text on the film, the accompanying sound or the accompanying printed script (for works with no sound or, if with sound, no narration).  For all other still images, including original or historical graphic material and opaque and non-opaque graphic material, and three-dimensional materials, the language content is that associated with the material, i.e., captions or other text associated with the item or collection that are part of the chief source of information.

For mixed materials, the language code is based on the predominant language of an item or materials in a collection.

When only one language is associated with an item, the code for that language is recorded.


If more than one language code is applicable, the code for the predominant language is recorded in 008/35-37, and the codes for all of the languages, including the predominant language, are recorded in field 041 (Language Code).  The code recorded in 008/35-37 is always the same as the language code recorded in the first occurrence of subfields $a or $d (for sound recordings).


If there is no predominant language, the language codes are recorded in English alphabetical order in field 041, and the first one is recorded in 008/35-37.


When formulating a bibliographic record for a translation, the code for the language of the translation, not the language of the original, is given in 008/35-37.  (The code for the language of the original is recorded in subfield $h of field 041.)


Special codes:




No information provided


No linguistic content


Multiple languages


Sign languages



Content designator history:

Prior to 2006, three blanks (###) were used to indicate that the item has no sung, spoken or written text.  Code zxx (No linguistic content) was added at that time to indicate this situation and three blanks were redefined as No information provided.

Related MARC fields or documents:

041  Language Code

500  General Note

546  Language Note

MARC Code List for Languages

See also:

008/00-39:  Character Positions by Type of Material

008  Fixed-Length Data Elements