Sign languages

Peter Constable petercon at
Mon Feb 27 00:22:47 CET 2006

> From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> bounces at] On Behalf Of John Cowan

> > >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.
> Oops.  What I propose is actually the second of the three possibilities
> mentioned: sgn-XX for national sign languages, sgn-yyy for non-national
> ones.

AFAIK, there is no such thing as "national sign languages". There are signed languages that are widely used in a given country, or signed languages that are most familiar to the dominant culture in a country, but I know of no case of signed languages recognized as a national language.

I will continue to repeat as I have done for the past five years: We're creating identifiers for languages, not regional variants of languages. Using region IDs to make language distinctions is A Bad Idea, pure and simple.

- we attribute a particular status to one language and attribute a unique association with national identity that may not be warranted or may not be permanent

- we significantly raise the potential for confusion in cases where there are multiple signed languages spoken in a given country

- we leave no room to use region IDs to distinguish regional sub-language varieties of signed languages that may be spoken in multiple countries

It is decidedly abusing the intended range of semantics for the different kinds of sub-tags that can constitute a tag. This is just bad, bad, bad; and just because we made the mistake in some existing cases it doesn't make it a good idea to continue to make the mistake in further cases. I said this in October 2001, and I'm only more strongly convinced of it than I was then.

Peter Constable

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