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From:  Michael Everson
Date:  Wed Aug 18, 1999  3:41 pm
Subject:  ISO language code for Sign Languages

ISO 639-2 is an International Standard which specifies a three-letter code
to identify languages. There is at present no code for Sign Language. I
have proposed "sgn" to the SignWriting List.

There is a procedure in ISO 693-2 to follow for applying for a code. I can
prepare an application document on behalf of DAC, assuming the DAC can
vouch for the fact that there are 50 documents written in Sign Language.

Note that the proposal is not to add new codes for each Sign Language, but
a generic one for Sign Language, which can be made precise for each Sign
Language using the document I presented earlier, which I have since
updated. This document outlines how Sign Language could be coded using ISO
639-2 and ISO 3166 (country codes). Please see

If DAC approves and can meet condition A.2.1 below, we can prepare a brief
document which can be sent to the ISO 639-2 Registration Authority (Library
of Congress) and get the ball rolling.

Michael Everson
A.2.1 Application for the registration of new language codes and for the
change ofexisting language codes.
ISO 639-2/RA shall receive and review applications for the registration of
new language codes for the exchange of existing ones. It shall suggest an
assignment of a code when the relevant criteria are met according to the
rules given in A.3.3 and A.3.4, and inform the applicant of the result of
ISO 639-2/RA actions. Such criteria shall include a request by one agency
with 50 documents in the langauge or a request by five agencies with a
total of 50 documents among them in the languages.

A.3.3 Additions and deletions to the list of entities, changes of codes
Requests for additions, deletions, and changes of codes shall be supported
by a justification. When ISO 639-2/RA consults ISO 639/RA-JAC about the
proposed inclusion, deletion, or change, and suggests a code, ISO
639-2/RA-JAC is opbliged to respond within one month. Sumultaneously ISO
639-1/RA will be informed and asked for comments.

A.3.4 Reservation of codes
When a request for inclusion of a new entity has been rejected, ISO
639-2/RA may reserve the requested code for the use of the applicant and
other possible users. ISO 639-2/RA will keep a record of such reservations
and will inform the ISO 639-1/RA of such.

  Replies Author Date
1694 Re: ISO language code for Sign Languages Valerie Sutton Wed  8/18/1999

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