ISO 639-3 changes, four years on

About a year ago, in working on this paper, I attempted to do rough count of the affiliations of people submitting code change requests for the ISO 639-3 language codes. The three-letter ISO 639-3 language codes are one of the more successful pieces of linguistic cyberinfrastructure, and, given their history as being largely derived from the old Ethnologue codes, it has been interesting to look at the extent to which proposed revisions to the codeset were coming from SIL and its various affiliates (including other missionary organizations) as opposed to other groups (e.g., linguists associated with purely academic institutions or members of the general public).

According to my quick and dirty semi-automated check of the requests from 2009 that have been processed, it looks like 2009 continues a trend seen in 2008 where about half of the requests come from "SIL" and the other half from non-SIL sources, including academic linguists and even some conlangers), which is an increase from the first two years of code change requests that were more heavily skewed towards SIL. This trend of greater non-SIL participation would seem to be a good thing insofar as it means more eyes are on the standard. That being said, the participation still doesn't seem to be where it should be since not all that many linguists submitted change requests (maybe seven or so) (though some of the ones that did submitted a lot). There are probably various reasons for this, but I suspect a big one is simply that it takes time to work on a change request, and it's not (yet!) a very valued endeavor. I wonder if a "stick" approach might work well here: For example, if one gets a documentation grant, perhaps submitting all appropriate code change requests should be considered a required outcome.

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