Na'vi language code

Today, I needed to look up a language code for Na’vi, the language natively spoken on the fictional moon Pandora, created by Paul Frommer for the movie Avatar.  When adding a new language to Mightyverse, we record the ISO codes and use them in the URL of a search and someday we’ll cross-link with amazing language resources like Ethnologue. Usually these codes are easy to find.  Not today.

I worry when the most authoritative reference I can find is wikipedia, which reports that the ISO 639-2 code is ‘art’.

Language identification moves at infrequent intervals.  It is not like being assigned a port number. I read further that the most recent ISO 639-3 change request list was approved on January 20, 2010 and I didn’t see Na’vi there.  It is likely queued up with the 2010 change requests.

I read that ISO uses the prefix ‘art’ for artificial languages.  (The art code is on the 639-2 list and therefore also part of 639-3).  So, the full RFC3066 (really RFC4646) code would be ‘art-nav’, which is also the wiktionary code.  So, until we get the official word in January 2011 or whenever RFC4646 codes get ratified, here’s what I’m going with:

  • ISO 639-1:  n/a
  • ISO 639-2:  art
  • ISO 639-3: art
  • RFC3066  : art-nav

3 thoughts on “Na'vi language code

  1. Omängum Fra'uti

    My understanding of the process for adopting ISO 639-3 codes, the pending applications get reviewed and adopted or rejected once a year at the beginning of the year. Prior to that they are put up for a review period of 3 months for people to submit comments. So the basic result is a request to include a language must be submitted by October to be considered for the coming review. It seems nobody working on Avatar thought to do that, and the language didn’t really get publicity until November/December. So perhaps even if it had been submitted, it might have been rejected at that point, due to having almost no public material, despite the goal of SIL to have a comprehensive list of languages.

    Looking through the history of ISO 639-3 requests, there are very few constructed languages represented, and most of them are aux languages like Esperanto or research languages. The only purely fictional/entertainment languages included are Klingon, Tolkein’s Quenyan and Sindarin, and Láadan. The request form is quite accommodating to constructed languages, so it seems more to be a lacking of conlangers knowing about the process, believing there language is notable enough to go through the process, or even considering it worth it to bother. Perhaps a combination.

    Na’vi is no exception. At this point, to my knowledge, nobody has submitted a request to create a new code for Na’vi. However, as Spring turns to Summer and Paul Frommer finishes with the last of the semesters responsibilities for teaching, that may change.

  2. admin

    Nice background Omängum! Thank you. Since we are making a guess right now, and Nav is already taken by Navaho, do you think we should propose NVI and then edit the Wiktionary entry to match, citing Mightyverse as a precedent?

    If so, would the codes be more like these?:
    ISO 639-1: n/a
    ISO 639-2: nvi
    ISO 639-3: nvi
    RFC3066 : art-nvi

  3. Omängum Fra'uti

    Until it is formally adopted by SIL, it would be premature to change it to anything. I do think “nvi” is a likely candidate but in the end it is up to SIL to determine what will be assigned. However it would be ISO 639-3 ONLY. ISO 639-2 is maintained by the Library of Congress and has a higher requirement for acceptance, namely it must have a more significant body of published work (50 total within up to 5 different institutions). And of course it must be an ISO 639-3 language before it can be accepted in ISO 639-2. If Na’vi ever meets that higher standard, it would not be for awhile.

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