sgn-MT [et al.]: new RFC 3066 tag[s]

Doug Ewell dewell at
Sun Oct 3 05:02:25 CEST 2004

Peter Constable <petercon at microsoft dot com> wrote:

> But the problem is knowing what the semantics are. Without a
> registration, how does one know whether "sgn-US" meant specifically
> ASL as opposed to any sign language that happens to be used in the US?

Indeed, registering tags like this means that consumers are forced to
look in the registry, even for a tag that conforms to the normal
generative mechanism, because the registration may have given the tag a
different meaning.  "Sign languages as used in the United States" is not
the same thing as "American Sign Language," as everyone on this list (on
both sides of the debate) agrees.

Plus, when a tag like "sgn-XX" is registered to mean "the one and only
XXish Sign Language," there is no longer an RFC 3066 tag that means
"Sign Languages (i.e. one of possibly many) as used in XX."  And there
might be a reason to do just that.

> But I have said before and still am inclined to say I think it's not a
> particularly great idea to be defining entire languages (as opposed to
> a particular regional variant of a language) by combining a
> language-collection ID and a country ID.

Why shouldn't these be registered under RFC 3066 as:

sgn-mdl    for Maltese Sign Language
sgn-tss    for Taiwanese Sign Language
sgn-fse    for Finnish Sign Language
sgn-xml    for Malaysian Sign Language

Such constructions are at least as much in keeping with the RFC 3066
registration procedure as the language-plus-country "informative"
registrations, possibly more so.  There is already a precedent for
registering tags composed of an ISO 639 code plus an invented 3-letter
subtag: no-bok, no-nyn, zh-gan, zh-min, zh-wuu, and zh-yue.

The great benefit of this approach would be that these subtags (mdl,
tss, fse, xml) are already the codes listed in the ISO 639-3 draft for
these sign languages, so if that draft is approved with those codes, and
RFC 3066bis is subsequently updated to allow ISO 639-3 codes as extended
language subtags, then these four registered tags will be automatically
converted to "normal" tags that use the generative mechanism.

OTOH, if the proposed language-country tags are registered, they will
remain "grandfathered" exceptions forever.

I strongly support using "sgn-" together with the proposed ISO 639-3
codes to create any new sign-language tags.  I volunteer to help put
together the registration forms, if desired.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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