UNGEGN definitions and UNICODe Glossary of terms

Lang Gérard gerard.lang at insee.fr
Mon Oct 6 10:27:12 CEST 2008

Dear John Cowan,

1-I made a terrible mistake. The second possible interpretation of the english word "language" in french reads "langage", not "language". So much for me, maybe too much Neglish is not good for my french !
2-I am happy to understand that you plainly approve at least 7 of the 8 definitions I selected from UNGEGN's Manual M 85.
3-Anyway, I found no definition for the term "LANGUAGE" inside the GLOSSARY OF UNICODE TERMS source you mentionned. Nor did I find any definition concerning the terms "CONVERSION", "ROMANIZATION", "TRANSLATION", TRANSCRIPTION" or "TRANSLITERATION".
I found a definition for the term "SCRIPT" that seems in line, and perfectly compatible with the definition given by UNGEGN.
I also found in the glossary a definition for "TRANSFORMATION FORMAT" (and also one for "TRANSCODING"), so it is difficult for me to think that "TRANSFORMATION" is not a concept used by UNICODE.
4-I am certainly not enough expert in english language to decide if "Sign language" can be considered to be covered by "verbal communication", that nevertheless seems to me have a flavour of "oral communication". Anyway, I do not see any possibility that "pronunciation of words" could cover "Sign languages".
5-Coming back to the proper interpretation in french of the english word "language", I verified that from the beginning (Recommendation ISO 639 [November 1967] "Symbols for Languages, Countries and Authorities// Indicatifs de LANGUES, de pays et d'autorités", and with strictly no exception, ISO 639 systematically translated the english word "Language" by the french word "langue" and not by "langage". This is also the case for UNGEGN's Manual M58, that never uses the french word "langage".
So, I have absolutely no doubt that "langue" is the proper french interpretation for "Language" inside ISO 639, as the general title of this standard  and as UNGEGN interpretation both prove.
And I maintain that, under this clear interpretation, "Sign languages" should not be taken inside ISO 639.
This is also reinforced by the fact that no "Sign Language" was present inside the publications of ISO 639 (1988) or ISO 639-2 (1998), or even ISO 639-1 (2002).But, a collective "Sign Languages", with alpha-3 code element "sgn" was added by ISO 639/RA-JAC inside ISO 639-2 on 2000-02-18 only, with no corresponding alpha-2 code element. 
This addition does not seem in line with the scope of ISO 639-2, whose  "1 Scope" writes :
 " This part of ISO 639 provides two sets of three-letter alphabetic codes for the representation of names of languages, one for TERMINOLOGY applications, and the other    for BIBLIOGRAPHIC applications...."
Moreover, ISO 639-5 (2008), that also uses "familles de langues" and "groupes de langues", recognizes "sgn" as a group of languages, so that ideally "sgn" should be  suppressed inside ISO 639-2 to be only mentionned inside ISO 639-5. And in this case, there would be strictly no mention of any form of "Sign languages" inside ISO 639-1 or ISO 639-2.

Bien cordialement.
Gérard LANG

"Là où il n'y a pas de loi,
Il y a quand même la conscience"
  Publilius Syrus
 (1er siècle avant J.-C.)

-----Message d'origine-----
De : ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no [mailto:ietf-languages-bounces at alvestrand.no] De la part de John Cowan
Envoyé : vendredi 3 octobre 2008 17:21
À : CE Whitehead
Cc : ietf-languages at iana.org; ltru at ietf.org
Objet : Re: [Ltru] Ltru Digest, Vol 44, Issue 15

CE Whitehead scripsit:

> However, "le tresor de la langue francaise" online
> (http://atilf.atilf.fr/tlf.htm) seems to largely agree with your 
> definition of "langue" -- as something pertaining to the "tongue" or 
> to things that remind one of a "tongue" (such as a "the tongue of a 
> flame")

Etymology is not a key to meaning.  "Verbal communication" is communication in words, and although sign languages don't involve the tongue, they definitely have words.

John Cowan    cowan at ccil.org    http://ccil.org/~cowan
Nobody expects the RESTifarian Inquisition!  Our chief weapon is surprise ... surprise and tedium  ... tedium and surprise ....
Our two weapons are tedium and surprise ... and ruthless disregard for unpleasant facts....  Our three weapons are tedium, surprise, and ruthless disregard ... and an almost fanatical devotion to Roy Fielding....
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