Registered sgn-* tags

Peter Constable petercon at
Mon Jul 12 22:58:35 CEST 2004

> From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> bounces at] On Behalf Of Michael Everson

> > If and when we extend a
> >successor of RFC 3066 to incorporate support for ISO 639-3, all of
> >signed languages (and more) will have their own atomic, alpha-3
> >identifier.
> Not signed spoken languages.

First some background info for those unfamiliar with signed languages
spoken by the deaf. There is a distinction between "signed spoken
languages", meaning a signed expression of an oral language such as
English, and deaf sign languages, which are distinct languages, largely
or wholly unrelated to the oral languages spoken by the hearing in the
matrix community. Signed English is an example of the former, American
Sign Language is an example of the latter.

Now, regarding Michael's comment about needing tags for signed spoken
languages, such as signed English. In this example, the language of
content would be English; if it were tagged as "en", that would be
valid. Of course, that may not be the most helpful. If the content is
text, then it is going to have to be represented using some writing
system used for signed languages. Suppose it is written using Sign
Writing, and let's suppose for the sake of discussion there is an ISO
15924 ID for Sign Writing of "Siwr". Then it would be both valid and
perfectly useful to tag the content as "en-Siwr". 

The more difficult usage scenario is one in which the content is video
or some form of animated graphics. Here, there is no writing, so no
script ID is relevant. I suggest that the most useful thing to do would
be to have some kind of variant subtag indicating it is a signed
representation of English, such as "en-signed". The subtag "signed"
could be registered to mean a 'signed variant of an oral language', and
it could be used productively as needed.

This is altogether a different situation than deaf sign languages, such
as ASL. For those, we have some registered tags such as "sgn-US"; ISO
639-3 will supply atomic alpha-3 IDs for others, such as Adamorobe Sign
Language (spoken in Ghana).

Peter Constable
Globalization Infrastructure and Font Technologies
Microsoft Windows Division

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