Sign languages (was: Re: additions to ISO 639 and the IANA language subtag registry)

Michael Everson everson at
Tue Feb 21 10:09:24 CET 2006

At 21:05 -0500 2006-02-20, John Cowan wrote:

>  > Using this mechanism, for example, Signed Spoken
>  > English would be "en-signed".
>I support this.  Signed spoken languages are spoken languages in a different
>modality, just as written (spoken) languages are.

Signed English in the US and Ireland is different 
from signed English in the UK. Do you understand 

>  > For the former, I am not convinced that not grouping all possible sign
>  > languages under a common "sgn-" umbrella constitutes "not helping the
>  > Deaf community very well."
>That took some serious decoding with the three "not"s.

That's because Mark is in "theory mode". :-)

>  > In any event, all of the tags in "sgn-" that were considered critical
>  > enough, or in high-enough demand, to be registered under RFC 3066 are
>  > still perfectly valid under RFC 3066bis.  No new "sgn" tags had been
>  > registered since November 2001.
>Quite so.

>  > If there is a future revision to RFC 3066bis to incorporate the
>>  forthcoming ISO 639-3, which is based on Ethnologue codes but which
>>  should replace "Ethnologue" in our discussions, then I strongly support
>>  including the ISO 639-3 code elements for sign languages as primary
>>  language subtags at that time.

I think this is a mistake. I think Ethnologue's 
taxonomy is immature with regard to these 

>I, on the other hand, support keeping the 'sgn' subtag with the existing
>country codes, for reasons of backward compatibility.  The difference
>between (true) signed and spoken languages is huge, much larger than the
>barriers between different signed languages (it is not unknown for signers
>with radically different languages to learn to communicate in one day).
>In addition, backward compatibility is very important.

Country designations (or some other designation) 
are necessary in some instances.

>I propose that in 3066ter, the 'sgn' subtag should be treated as sui
>generis: partly a language, partly a macrolanguage.  For the national
>sign languages, it is a language and the country subtag serves to
>discriminate; the corresponding 639-3 code element is suppressed from
>the subtag registry.  For the non-national sign languages, it is a
>macrolanguage and the 639-3 code would be used as an extlang.

I am not sure it can be done algorithmically but 
I agree that we should explore this avenue.

>I agree that this is messy, but we know that people have used codes like
>sgn-US, and there can be no assurances that they have not used 3066-valid
>codes like sgn-CR even though they were never registered with IANA.
>Here's my specific proposal:
>     Adamorobe SL  [sgn-ads] (Ghana)

I think using the 2-letter code for Ghana plus a 
modifier might be better here. That is what we 
used for Martha's Vineyard SL, isn't it?

In general I favour whaat John has suggested. I 
would LIKE to work with Phil Blair and his 
contacts at Gallaudet on this. Can we take time 
to do that? It will take time.

>     Algerian SL  [sgn-DZ] (Algeria) (suppress asp)
>     American SL  [sgn-US] (USA) (suppress ase)
>     Argentine SL  [sgn-AR] (Argentina) (suppress aed)
>     Armenian SL  [sgn-AM] (Armenia) (suppress aen)
>     Australian Aborigines SL  [sgn-asw] (Australia) (non-Deaf)
>     Australian SL  [sgn-AU] (Australia) (suppress asf)
>     Austrian SL  [sgn-AT] (Austria) (suppress asq)
>     Bali SL  [sgn-bqy] (Indonesia (Java and Bali))
>     Bamako SL  [sgn-bog] (Mali)
>     Ban Khor SL  [sgn-bfk] (Thailand)
>     Belgian-Flemish SL  [sgn-be-nl] (Belgium) (grandfathered) (suppress bvs)
>     Belgian-French SL  [sgn-be-fr] (Belgium) (grandfathered) (suppress bvs)
>     Bolivian SL  [sgn-BO] (Bolivia) (suppress bvl)
>     Brazilian SL  [sgn-BR] (Brazil) (suppress bzs)
>     British SL  [sgn-GB] (United Kingdom) (suppress bfi)
>     Bulgarian SL  [sgn-BG] (Bulgaria) (suppress bqn)
>     Catalonian SL  [sgn-csc] (Spain)
>     Chadian SL  [sgn-TD] (Chad) (suppress cds)
>     Chiangmai SL  [sgn-csd] (Thailand)
>     Chilean SL  [sgn-CL] (Chile) (suppress csg)
>     Chinese SL  [sgn-CN] (China) (suppress csl)
>     Colombian SL  [sgn-CO] (Colombia) (suppress csn)
>     Costa Rican SL  [sgn-CR] (Costa Rica) (suppress csr)
>     Croatia SL  [sgn-HR] (Croatia) (suppress csq)
>     Cuba SL  [sgn-CU] (Cuba) (suppress csf)
>     Czech SL  [sgn-CZ] (Czech Republic) (suppress cse)
>     Danish SL  [sgn-DK] (Denmark) (suppress dsl)
>     Dominican SL  [sgn-DO] (Dominican Republic) (suppress doq)
>     Dutch SL  [sgn-NL] (Netherlands) (suppress dse)
>     Ecuadorian SL  [sgn-EC] (Ecuador) (suppress ecs)
>     Egypt SL  [sgn-EG] (Egypt) (suppress esl)
>     Eskimo SL (not in 639-3 yet)
>     Estonian SL  [sgn-EE] (Estonia) (suppress eso)
>     Ethiopian SL  [sgn-ET] (Ethiopia) (suppress eth)
>     Finnish SL  [sgn-FI] (Finland) (suppress fse)
>     Finnish-Swedish SL  [sgn-fss] (Finland)
>     French SL  [sgn-FR] (France) (suppress fsl)
>     German SL  [sgn-DE] (Germany) (suppress gsg)
>     Ghanaian SL  [sgn-GH] (Ghana) (suppress gse)
>     Greek SL  [sgn-GR] (Greece) (suppress gss)
>     Guatemalan SL  [sgn-GT] (Guatemala) (suppress gsm)
>     Guinean SL  [sgn-GN] (Guinea) (suppress gus)
>     Haiphong SL  [sgn-haf] (Viet Nam)
>     Hanoi SL  [sgn-hab] (Viet Nam)
>     Hausa SL  [sgn-hsl] (Nigeria)
>     Hawai'i Pidgin SL  [sgn-hps] (USA)
>     Ho Chi Minh City SL  [sgn-hos] (Viet Nam)
>     Honduras SL  [sgn-HN] (Honduras) (suppress hds)
>     Hungarian SL  [sgn-HU] (Hungary) (suppress hsh)
>     Icelandic SL  [sgn-IS] (Iceland) (suppress icl)
>     Indian SL  [sgn-IN] (India) (suppress ins)
>     Indonesian SL  [sgn-ID] (Indonesia (Java and Bali)) (suppress inl)
>     Irish SL  [sgn-IE] (Ireland) (suppress isg)
>     Israeli SL  [sgn-IL] (Israel) (suppress isr)
>     Italian SL  [sgn-IT] (Italy) (suppress ise)
>     Jamaican Country SL  [sgn-JM or sgn-jcs, to be decided] (Jamaica)
>     Japanese SL  [sgn-JP] (Japan) (suppress jsl)
>     Jordanian SL  [sgn-JO] (Jordan) (suppress jos)
>     Kenyan SL  [sgn-KE] (Kenya) (suppress xki)
>     Korean SL  [sgn-KR] (Korea, South) (suppress kvk)
>     Kuala Lumpur SL (not in 639-3 yet)
>     Laos SL  [sgn-LA] (Laos) (suppress lso)
>     Latvian SL  [sgn-LV] (Latvia) (suppress lsl)
>     Libyan SL  [sgn-LY] (Libya) (suppress lbs)
>     Lithuanian SL  [sgn-LT] (Lithuania) (suppress lls)
>     Lyons SL  [sgn-lsg] (France)
>     Madagascar SL  [sgn-MG] (Madagascar) (suppress mzc)
>     Malaysian SL  [sgn-MY] (Malaysia (Peninsular)) (suppress xml)
>     Maltese SL  [sgn-MT] (Malta) (suppress mdl)
>     Maritime SL  [sgn-nsr] (Canada)
>     Martha's Vineyard SL  [sgn-mre] (USA)
>     Mexican SL  [sgn-MX] (Mexico) (suppress mfs)
>     Moldova SL  [sgn-MD] (Moldova) (suppress vsi)
>     Monastic SL  [sgn-mzg] (Vatican State) (non-Deaf)
>     Mongolian SL  [sgn-MN] (Mongolia) (suppress msr)
>     Moroccan SL  [sgn-MA] (Morocco) (suppress xms)
>     Mozambican SL  [sgn-MZ] (Mozambique) (suppress mzy)
>     Namibian SL  [sgn-NA] (Namibia) (suppress nbs)
>     Nepalese SL  [sgn-NP] (Nepal) (suppress nsp)
>     New Zealand SL  [sgn-NZ] (New Zealand) (suppress nzs)
>     Nicaraguan SL  [sgn-NI] (Nicaragua) (suppress ncs)
>     Nigerian SL  [sgn-NG] (Nigeria) (suppress nsi)
>     Norwegian SL  [sgn-NO] (Norway) (suppress nsl)
>     Nova Scotian SL (not in 639-3 yet)
>     Old Kentish SL  [sgn-okl] (United Kingdom)
>     Pakistan SL  [sgn-PK] (Pakistan) (suppress pks)
>     Penang SL  [sgn-psg] (Malaysia (Peninsular))
>     Persian SL  [sgn-IR] (Iran) (suppress psc)
>     Peruvian SL  [sgn-PE] (Peru) (suppress prl)
>     Philippine SL  [sgn-PH] (Philippines) (suppress psp)
>     Plains Indian SL  [sgn-psd] (USA) (non-Deaf)
>     Polish SL  [sgn-PL] (Poland) (suppress pso)
>     Portuguese SL  [sgn-PT] (Portugal) (suppress psr)
>     Providencia SL  [sgn-prz] (Colombia)
>     Puerto Rican SL  [sgn-PR] (Puerto Rico) (suppress psl)
>     Quebec SL  [sgn-fcs] (Canada)
>     Rennellese SL  [sgn-SB] (Solomon Islands) (suppress rsi)
>     Romanian SL  [sgn-RO] (Romania) (suppress rms)
>     Russian SL  [sgn-RU] (Russia (Europe)) (suppress rsl)
>     Salvadoran SL  [sgn-SV] (El Salvador) (suppress esn)
>     Saudi Arabian SL  [sgn-SA] (Saudi Arabia) (suppress sdl)
>     Scandinavian Pidgin SL (not in 639-3 yet)
>     Selangor SL  [sgn-kgi] (Malaysia (Peninsular))
>     Sierra Leone SL  [sgn-SL] (Sierra Leone) (suppress sgx)
>     Singapore SL  [sgn-SG] (Singapore) (suppress sls)
>     Slovakian SL  [sgn-SK] (Slovakia) (suppress svk)
>     South African SL  [sgn-ZA] (South Africa) (suppress sfs)
>     Spanish SL  [sgn-ES] (Spain) (suppress ssp)
>     Sri Lankan SL  [sgn-LK] (Sri Lanka) (suppress sqs)
>     Swedish SL  [sgn-SE] (Sweden) (suppress swl)
>     Swiss-French SL  [sgn-ssr] (Switzerland)
>     Swis-German SL  [ssgn-ch-de] (Switzerland) (grandfathered)
>     Swiss-Italian SL  [sgn-slf] (Switzerland)
>     Taiwan SL  [sgn-TW] (Taiwan) (suppress tss)
>     Tanzanian SL  [sgn-TZ] (Tanzania) (suppress tza)
>     Thai SL  [sgn-TH] (Thailand) (suppress tsq)
>     Tunisian SL  [sgn-TN] (Tunisia) (suppress tse)
>     Turkish SL  [sgn-TR] (Turkey (Asia)) (suppress tsm)
>     Ugandan SL  [sgn-UG] (Uganda) (suppress ugn)
>     Ukrainian SL  [sgn-UA] (Ukraine) (suppress ukl)
>     Urubú-Kaapor SL  [sgn-uks] (Brazil)
>     Uruguayan SL  [sgn-UY] (Uruguay) (suppress ugy)
>     Venezuelan SL  [sgn-VE] (Venezuela) (suppress vsl)
>     Yiddish SL  [sgn-yds] (Israel)
>     Yucatec Maya SL  [sgn-msd] (Mexico)
>     Yugoslavian SL  [sgn-YU] (Serbia and Montenegro) (suppress ysl)
>     Zambian SL  [sgn-ZM] (Zambia) (suppress zsl)
>     Zimbabwe SL  [sgn-ZW] (Zimbabwe) (suppress zib)

Michael Everson *

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