Sign languages

Michael Everson everson at
Mon Feb 27 10:40:32 CET 2006

At 15:22 -0800 2006-02-26, Peter Constable wrote:

>  > 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.

What John did not intend to say was that a nation had recognized a 
Sign Langauge as a national language in that sense. What is the

>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.

I disagree with you. Sign Languages are almost always named after the 
country in which they are prevalent. Therefore it makes snese to use 
region IDs in this sense, for this class of languages. This is also 
why sgn- is useful as a prefix, because it signals that the region 
IDs are used in a different sense than they are for spoken languages.

>- 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

Irish Sign Language is used in Ireland. It also has some currency in 
Northern Ireland (as does British Sign Language) and this doesn't 
bother anyone. They still call them ISL and BSL.

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

I hardly. That is why we have registrations and descriptions.

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

Name examples please. And for these languages, other suffixes may 
suffice for this purpose.

>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.

I remain unconvinced. Sorry, Peter, but I remain unconvinced.
Michael Everson *

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