1267.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/07/2016   
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This document was added or updated on 28/03/2017.



Responses provided in statistical and administrative collections are not always identical to the names used to describe the classification categories. Therefore, a coding index is required to link responses to the most appropriate code in the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL) in a process called "coding" (which can be undertaken by computer or manually). The ASCL coding index contains a comprehensive list of the most likely responses to questions relating to language and their correct classification codes. The coding index is used to code responses to questions such as 'First Language Spoken', 'Languages Spoken at Home', 'Main Language Spoken at Home' and 'Main Language Other Than English Spoken at Home'. The ASCL coding index may be requested by contacting standards@abs.gov.au.


The coding index was developed through literature research, consultation with stakeholders, and analysis of data from responses obtained in ABS statistical collections such as the Census of Population and Housing.

As well as individual languages, a number of entries in the ASCL coding index cover dialects and regional language varieties not separately identified in ASCL. Therefore, in addition to its coding function, the numerical index can be used to clarify the nature, extent and varietal content of each language category.


When coding responses in statistical or administrative collections, the following rules apply:

  • Responses which match exactly an entry in the coding index are assigned the code allocated to that index entry. For example, a response of "Deutsch" is coded to 1301 German, and "Cambodian" is coded to 6301 Khmer.
  • Responses which relate directly to a language category are coded to that language category. Such instances include responses which are an exact match with the language category title except in terms of:
    • alternative spelling (e.g. responses of "Kaura", "Coorna" and "Koornawarra" are all coded to 8921 Kaurna)
    • spelling error (e.g. "Japanease" is coded to 7201 Japanese)
    • the use of abbreviations (e.g. "N.Z Maori" is coded to 9304 Maori (New Zealand)
    • the use of foreign or idiosyncratic words (e.g. "Nihongo" is coded to 7201 Japanese and "Aussie Slang" is coded to 1201 English)
    • the use of qualifying, modifying or extraneous words in addition to the fundamental or basic language description. For example, a response of "A little Japanese" or "Yes Japanese" is coded to 7201 Japanese and "South Korean" is coded to 7301 Korean.
  • Responses which relate directly to a language category because they describe a variety, dialect or geographic variation of the language are coded to that language category (e.g. the responses "Swabian", "Viennese" and "Alsatian" are all coded to 1301 German).
  • Responses containing more than one distinct language are coded to the first language stated (e.g. a response of "Polish and German" is coded to 3602 Polish). The exception to this rule is where it is possible to store more than one language code, in which case the code for each separate language is recorded.
  • Responses which cannot be identified as relating to a separately identified language in the classification are assigned a residual category code or a supplementary code. For example "Chin" and "Chin Burma" are coded to 6100 Burmese and Related Languages nfd and "North Queensland Aboriginal" is coded to 8000 Australian Indigenous Languages nfd. Responses such as "Foreign", "Good Speech" and "Truth" cannot be linked to any language and are coded to 0000 Inadequately described.

A response should be coded to a residual category only when it is clear that it is a distinct language or dialect which cannot be placed in a precise language category. Responses which are not precise enough to be coded to any category should be assigned the appropriate supplementary code.

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