Coming from the C/C++ world, I am used to a standardized language. There are differenct standards, such as ISO or ANSI C.

Is there a language standard for LaTeX? (Syntax, keywords, ...)

  • 3
    @Mico Some people in the LaTeX team would strongly dispute your first sentence! [Not the the 'welcome' one ;-)] ((La)TeX as a means of information exchange and all that.)
    – Joseph Wright
    Oct 28, 2015 at 7:34
  • 3
    @Mico one could also dispute it for latex2e, latex has always had a role as a language for document exchange, and includes non-tex implementations (latexml, mathjax, latex2html, ....) Oct 28, 2015 at 8:35
  • 2
    there's one difference between tex and other language standards. even once the tex language is frozen at π it will not be feasible to create a fixed bnf definition for it. Oct 28, 2015 at 13:03
  • 2
    @JörgWMittag -- thanks for the correction. in the 1980s it was proposed in iso circles to "standardize" tex, but after examination, it was decided not to, for reasons both of difficulty and others (one of the most important being that formal standardization could open it up to changes that would not have been accepted by knuth, with the result that, according to dek's wishes, it could no longer be called "tex"). Oct 28, 2015 at 14:21
  • 2
    As the comments detail, some more idea of what you are after would be helpful (TeX, LaTeX as in the LaTeX2e kernel, packages, just math mode symbols, ...). In any case the answer is the same ('no') but it would allow a more nuanced answer to to given. (In the C world there is more than one compiler which is supposed to give a working result. For TeX, there's TeX and derivatives, all of which must pass the TRIP test, and for LaTeX there is LaTeX2e and that's it.)
    – Joseph Wright
    Oct 28, 2015 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Short answer:

There is no specifications

Long answer about standard:

We should differenciate several point here I think. You speak about LaTeX but nothing about TeX, LuaLaTeX or XeLaTeX.


Basic command are written by D. E. Knuth himself. No need to standardize then. For information you can modified the source code of TeX but in this case, you have not the right to called the modified program TeX:

% This program is copyright (C) 1982 by D. E. Knuth; all rights are reserved. 
% Copying of this file is authorized only if (1) you are D. E. Knuth, or if 
% (2) you make absolutely no changes to your copy. (The WEB system provides 
% for alterations via an auxiliary file; the master file should stay intact.) 
% See Appendix H of the WEB manual for hints on how to install this program. 
% And see Appendix A of the TRIP manual for details about how to validate it.


  1. LaTeX2e is a standard "de facto": "Until LaTeX3 is delivered, the project team are committed to the active maintenance of The New Standard LaTeX (LaTeX2e). The experience gained from the production and maintenance of The New Standard LaTeX will have a major influence on the design of LaTeX3. "
  2. LaTeX3e is still in development and so not standard yet.

Lua(La)TeX and Xe(La)TeX

I decided to put both of them in the same categories. The goal is to make extension of (La)TeX:


There is no specifications as ISO, ANSI, AFNOR or from other organization but standard de facto.

  • I suspect the OP didn't actually mean to ask about standards but about specifications, in which case I guess the answer is a simple "No"? Oct 28, 2015 at 14:44
  • @JörgWMittag There is no specifications but only standard. I modified the conclusion and had a "short answer" part. Oct 28, 2015 at 14:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .