Sign languages

Michael Everson everson at
Sun Feb 26 17:13:47 CET 2006

At 11:01 -0500 2006-02-26, John Cowan wrote:
>Doug Ewell scripsit:
>>  Then I must respectfully disagree.  We are bound by history to honor
>>  "sgn-US" for American Sign Language (and likewise for 21 others).  We
>>  are not bound to perpetuate this model for all other sign languages
>>  identified by a country name.
>I agree that we are not bound; I think it will just be less confusing
>to the users if we bind ourselves.

I also agree with John: the sgn- prefix as a special (non-genetic) 
umbrella tag has a utility. I do not agree that we should abandon 
this as a way for tagging Sign Languages or signed spoken languages.

>I also agree with Michael that we don't need to decide this urgently.
>Sign languages can wait until 3066ter, and signed spoken languages even
>longer if necessary.

I am concerned about the three-letter codes for these in 639, 
however, which also seem premature to me.

Doug said:

>Let me paraphrase this into a question:  In what way are sign 
>languages different from other languages that requires them to be 
>coded using a completely different model?

They aren't "spoken", for one. 639-2 gave a macro tag for them which 
differs from other macro tags (which are generally genetic). 
Librarians for instance may need to tag materials as being Signed, 
and may not have any ability to distinguish one from the next.

The fact that things like SignWriting exist, which enables Sign 
Languages to be actually *written* means we need to have precise and 
careful tagging for these languages, and please let us not rush.

At 22:09 -0500 2006-02-25, John Cowan wrote:

>With sign languages, we weren't so lucky.  We have to live with that.
>Now we can either treat sgn-US and the 20 other registered tags as sui
>generis, or we can extend the pattern to the other national-scope sign
>languages, and treat the "minority" sign languages differently, either
>as sgn-xxx or as just xxx.  I proposed the former.

I favour the latter, modulo a specific treatment for "signed spoken languages".
Michael Everson *

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