In addition to codes for individual languages, the list also contains a number of codes for language groups.  While some individual languages are given their own unique code, although linguistically they are part of a language group, many individual languages are assigned a group code, because it is not considered practical to establish a separate code for each.

Group codes may be recognized by the fact that the name listed in association with the code does not represent an individual language, and includes either the generic term "languages" or the expression "(Other)," as opposed to names of individual languages which do not include these terms.  For example:

myn   Mayan languages

nic     Niger-Kordofanian (Other)

These language group codes are generally established at a very broad level, e.g., South American Indian (Other) sai.  Although some South American Indian languages have their own unique codes, such as Mapuche arn and Aymara aym, all other South American Indian languages which have not been assigned a unique code, such as the Cumana language, are assigned the group code sai.

Some group codes have been established at an intermediate level when individual languages and dialects within that group did not warrant discrete codes, yet it was felt that assignment to one of the very broad group codes was not sufficiently specific.  For example, the Athapascan language group, a subgroup of North American Indian languages, is given the code ath, and that code rather than nai, the code for North American Indian (Other), is assigned to Athapascan languages not having their own codes.

Ancient languages which are not given unique codes are assigned the code for the major language group to which each belongs, rather than the code for the modern language which evolved from the ancient language.  Thus, the language Swedish, Old is assigned the code gem for the language group Germanic (Other) instead of the code swe for the modern language Swedish.

Dialects are normally treated like any individual language entered in the list, and are generally assigned a group code.  However, if a dialect of a language as well as the language itself is entered in the list, the dialect is usually assigned the same code as the code for the language.  If the language is assigned a group code, the dialect is assigned the same group code.  For example, Colville, a dialect of Okanagan, and Okanagan language itself are both assigned sal, the group code for Salishan languages.  If the language has a unique code, the dialect is also assigned that code rather than the code for the group to which both belong.  For example, Setu, a dialect of Estonian, is assigned est, the code for Estonian.  In a few instances, however, both the language and a dialect of that language have their own unique codes.  For example, Spanish has the code spa, and Aragonese Spanish, a dialect of Spanish, has the code arg.

See also:


MARC Code List for Languages:  Contents