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ISO 639-1:2002, Codes for the representation of names of languages — Part 1: Alpha-2 code, is the first part of the ISO 639 series of international standards for language codes. Part 1 covers the registration of two-letter codes. There are 136 two-letter codes registered. The registered codes cover the world's major languages.
These codes are a useful international, and formal, shorthand for indicating languages. For example:
- Armenian is represented by hy (from the endonym հայերէն, Hayeren)
- Dutch is represented by nl (from the endonym Nederlands)
- English is represented by en
- Esperanto is represented by eo
- French is represented by fr
- German is represented by de (from the endonym Deutsch)
- Ido is represented by io
- Italian is represented by it
- Japanese is represented by ja (even though its endonym is 日本語, Nihongo)
- Portuguese is represented by pt
- Russian is represented by ru
- Spanish is represented by es (from the endonym español)
- Swedish is represented by sv (from the endonym svenska)
- Turkish is represented by tr
Many multilingual web sites—such as Wikipedia—use these codes to prefix URLs of specific language versions of their web sites: for example, en.Wikipedia.org is the English version of Wikipedia. See also IETF language tag. (Two-letter country-specific top-level-domain code suffixes are often different from these language-tag prefixes).
ISO 639, the original standard for language codes, was approved in 1967. It was split into parts, and in 2002 ISO 639-1 became the new revision of the original standard. The last code added was ht, representing Haitian Creole on 2003-02-26. The use of the standard was encouraged by IETF language tags, introduced in RFC 1766 in March 1995, and continued by RFC 3066 from January 2001 and RFC 4646 from September 2006. The current version is RFC 5646 from September 2009. Infoterm (International Information Center for Terminology) is the registration authority for ISO 639-1 codes.
If an ISO 639-2 code that covers a group of languages is used, it might be overridden for some specific languages by a new ISO 639-1 code.
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See also 
- "Search engine for official language codes".
- ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee - Working principles for ISO 639 maintenance