Sign languages

Doug Ewell dewell at
Sun Feb 26 05:20:55 CET 2006

John Cowan <cowan at ccil dot org> wrote:

> Is it a pity, in hindsignt, that we registered a bunch of tags for
> sign languages based on a collective 639-2 tag and a country?  Yes.
> Are we stuck with it now?  Yes.  Can we easily change them to tags
> like ase or sgn-ase instead of sgn-US?  No, not easily.

I don't propose doing away with "sgn-US" and its brethren; indeed we 
can't.  I do propose using "sgn-csr" in the 3066ter era for Costa Rican 
Sign Language instead of "sgn-CR".  I also propose introducing "sgn-ase" 
as a non-preferred synonym for "sgn-US" for consistency, but that is 

What I do NOT propose doing is saying, well, we've opened the barn door 
by encoding "sgn-US" and brethren, so now we have to use that model 
everywhere it is syntactically possible, and use "sgn-FK" for Falkland 
Islands Sign Language instead of an ISO 639-3-based code.

> 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 thought you had proposed the latter.  I'm glad I misunderstood.

Doug Ewell
Fullerton, California, USA

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