RE: [Ltru] Charter - sign(ed) language tag construction ?

"Addison Phillips" <> Thu, 06 July 2006 18:02 UTC

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From: Addison Phillips <>
To: 'Randy Presuhn' <>, 'LTRU Working Group' <>
Subject: RE: [Ltru] Charter - sign(ed) language tag construction ?
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 11:01:44 -0700
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I have several thoughts here:

1. I am hoping that "sgn-ase" (etc. etc.) is dealt with as part of
incorporating ISO 639-3, that is, it is a special case of the more general
treatment of extended language subtags. I suspect that it would be best if
an ISO 639-3 code is either *always* a language subtag or *always* an
extlang (with a specific prefix).

2. I think that tagging of signed languages should be cited as an example of
the problem of incorporating ISO 639-3 in the charter. 

3. It might be a good idea to consider, instead of more wordsmithing within
3066bis, splitting the document yet again. Sections 2 and 3 of the current
document concern the format of tags and the creation and maintenance of the
registry. These are mechanical, non-controversial things, which will require
very little work. Section 4 ("Formation and Processing of Language Tags")
might benefit from being its own, standalone, document incorporating more
(and more accessible) material on choosing and using tags--including "best
practices" in tag formation to address cases such as sign languages. Many of
these recommendations are not normative in the sense of being at the
MUST/MUST NOT level. Expanding on the reasons why one should use
"sgn-ase-foobar" instead of, for example, "ase-US-xyzzy" would help users,
but, pace my suspicion in item #1 above, either might be a valid tag, and
even useful in certain situations.


Addison Phillips
Internationalization Architect - Yahoo! Inc.

Internationalization is an architecture.
It is not a feature.  

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Randy Presuhn [] 
> Sent: jeudi 6 juillet 2006 10:30
> To: LTRU Working Group
> Subject: [Ltru] Charter - sign(ed) language tag construction ?
> Hi -
> As a technical contributor...
> Would it make sense to add material on how tagging for sign(ed)
> languages to the 3066ter effort being proposed?  If so, could
> Peter's message be distilled down to a high-level sentence for
> the charter discussion?
> Randy
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Peter Constable" <>
> To: "IETF Languages Discussion" <>
> Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 12:22 AM
> Subject: RE: Language Subtag Registration Form: variant "signed"
> I had an hour conversation today with an SIL linguist that 
> has been assisting teams working on sign language projects 
> for a number
> of years. We discussed various things, including the 
> phenomenon of "signed-spoken-lang-X" varieties.
> In thinking about how to construct tags for these languages, 
> the crucial question in my mind is this (using "signed English" in the
> US as an example):
> Is signed English
> 1) basically English expressed in a different modality,
> 2) basically ASL with some kind of modification or 
> qualification -- e.g. a dialect or register, or
> 3) a pidgin of English and ASL?
> Whichever it is, we should tag it accordingly (and if three, 
> then possibly code as though it were a distinct language).
> I was thinking we might use a subtag "-signed" based on the 
> assumption that (1) was applicable. I know understand that these
> language varieties typically fall into (2), though perhaps 
> sometimes into (3); generally these are probably best thought of as
> registers of the relevant signed language. They typically use 
> phonology and lexica from the sign language and impose elements of the
> syntax (possibly including morphology) of the spoken language.
> Thus, here's my thoughts on a good approach to tagging signed 
> languages:
> - We treat "sgn" as though it were a macrolanguage. (My 
> contact said that really wasn't that much of a stretch.)
> - We use ISO 639-3 IDs as extlang subtags together with a 
> primary subtag of "sgn"; e.g., "sgn-ase" for ASL. All signed languages
> (SLs proper, not the Signed English cases) use tags 
> constructed this way.
> - We generally treat varieties like Signed English as 
> registers of the signed language they are associated with. 
> Thus, the tag is
> formed by adding a variant subtag to the tag for the sign 
> language. Because there can be multiple varieties for a given sign
> language/spoken language combination, registered variant 
> subtags provide the necessary level of flexibility. E.g. 
> something like
> "sgn-ase-enexact" "sng-ase-enexact2" for SEE and SEE2; and 
> "sgn-ase-esbaja" for the signed Spanish spoken in southern Baja
> California (which is based on ASL).
> - For cases of signed-spoken-lang-X that are pidgins, we 
> treat these based on whatever general principles we adopt for 
> pidgins. (I'm
> not sure at the moment what that should be; the problem with 
> pidgins is that they are transitional and not yet stable -- they may
> stabilize as a creole or they may continue to mutate or they 
> may disappear.)
> This should give generally good results for matching 
> algorithms. Having "sgn" at the start immediately sets apart 
> the modality,
> which will generally trump any other distinction in 
> importance to the user. A request for "sgn-ase" will return 
> results that include
> (the hypothetical) "sgn-ase-enexact" and "sgn-ase-esbaja", 
> which is likely to be reasonable: an ASL speaker is going to recognize
> all or nearly all of the lexical items in either case and so 
> will have about as much problem in comprehension as we'd expect from
> dialect or register differences.
> This is a preliminary take. I'm know my understanding is 
> still limited, and that are likely to be several parts of what I've
> outlined that need work and further discussion.
> Peter Constable
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