SignWriting List Forum
Date: Tue Aug 3, 1999 10:33
Subject: Re: Acronyms for SLs
Dear Valerie and list members,
There have been several references to the Ethnologue database, and I wanted
to clarify a few things about the code lists. The Ethnologue is a listing
of over 6000 languages. The editor has assigned a unique three-letter code
to each language. Of course this means that they are going to run into a
lot of potentially conflicting codes. For example you have already
mentioned that LSM could be used for both Mexican and Maltese SLs. So, the
editors had to make some choices.
Also, the Ethnologue has been around since 1951. I think that SLs were
first introduced in the 11th edition in 1988 (It may have been the 10th, I
don't remember). So, a lot of the obvious initials had long since been used
for other languages (hence the need to use initials like Q and Z that
really don't have anything to do with the name of the language.)
All this is to say that the Ethnologue is a great source of information
about the sign languages but you should not be offended if the three-letter
code is not a code that is actually used in the country. It is only there
for database purposes.
However, If you look at the entry for Germany you will see this:
GERMAN SIGN LANGUAGE (DEUTSCHE GEBARDENSPRACHE, DGS) [GSG] ...
The GSG is the code used in the Ethnologue database; however, "DGS" is
correctly specified as the appropriate abbreviation for the language.
One word of caution, the Ethnologue is not infallible! It is only as
accurate as people make it. On the website there is a place for you to
write your suggestions and corrections. So, please, if you look and see an
error, don't gripe, just send in your corrections and the editors will
update the information (at least by the next printing deadline--so don't
get upset if you send in a correction and a week later it hasn't been
By the way, there are more than 100 signed languages listed in the
Ethnologue, so if you haven't checked it out, do it!