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

Doug Ewell dewell at
Mon Feb 27 02:05:14 CET 2006

Michael Everson <everson at evertype dot com> wrote:

>> Blech! So you want to have "sgn-GH" for 'Ghanian SL' and something
>> like "sgn-GH-admrb" for 'Adoromobe SL', even though the two are
>> probably quite distinct, if even related at all. That will work
>> beautifully (NOT!) with left-prefix matching algorithms.
> Such algorithms are not the reason we have language-tags, I am sure.

Such algorithms will dramatically improve the usefulness of language 
tags, by allowing applications to match and filter them in a standard 
way that humans will understand.  The benefits are already 
well-understood for non-manual languages.

I get the feeling the only acceptable way to tag sign(ed) languages will 
be to use Michael's scheme from 2001, which -- because of tags like 
"sgn-MY-B" and "sgn-GH-EP" and "sgn-MX-YUC" and "sgn-eng-US" -- will 
require a *completely different syntax* for tags that begin with "sgn". 
That will be a knotty problem for those who choose to participate in 

Doug Ewell
Fullerton, California, USA

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