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From:  "Angus B. Grieve-Smith"
Date:  Sun Aug 22, 1999  1:24 pm
Subject:  Re: Acronyms - A suggestion

On Fri, 20 Aug 1999, barbara o'dea wrote:

> This is soooo true. To place the spoken language of a community as
> part of the identification of a signed language is problematic and
> should be unnecessary.

I've been saying this for months about acronyms: there's no real
need to have the name for the main language signed in the Netherlands be
borrowed from the main language spoken in the Netherlands. What I'm
trying to say about the ASL/LSQ split is that as far as I can tell it
falls along ethnic lines. The problem is that "English Canadian" is not a
recognized ethnicity the way that "French Canadian" is. The conquerors,
and the majority, get unmarked status, as the Walloons apparently do in

> Whether or not it has local variations (which of course it does, even
> within Canada), to identify it as CSL seems extremely odd to me. (A
> couple of years ago there was a move to change the name to CSL; but
> this has not taken hold in Canada as far as I can tell).

I think that the Ethnologue's use of "CSL" is a leftover from the
period of CSL advocacy. Since the Ethnologue has to rely on voluntary
contributions of information, that part has never been updated.

> Is there a problem with designating two countries for the same
> language?

This problem seems to be built into Michael Everson's proposal,
which is otherwise an improvement on the earlier attempt to use unique
three-letter identifiers.

> That the signed language used by most Deaf people in the U.S. and
> Canada be given the identification name - NASL - for North American
> Sign Language. The countries using it could be identified as Canada
> and the U.S.

> Other signed languages in North America could keep their
> identifications - eg. LSM for Mexican Sign Language and LSQ for the
> signed language used in parts of Quebec.

As far as a name, "ASL" is what's widely used now, although Judy
Kegl's point that it wasn't always so is a good one. I'm just wary of
portraying one language (and one ethnic group) as the unmarked language
(and ethnic group) of a country. This seems to be an unintended result of
Michael Everson's proposed system, as well as Valerie's use of "countries"
for identifying signed-language/spoken-language pairs. I'm wary of
putting this through the ISO until we get some of these problems hammered

> I have no idea how many signed languages exist in the Aboriginal
> communities throughout Canada (or the U.S.). In a previous posting a
> signed language for Nova Scotia was suggested. I've never heard of a
> signed language paticular to that region (other than ASL that is) -
> but hey, I could be mistaken.

The Ethnologue is famously incomplete, because it's a volunteer
effort. No one has yet come up with anything better, though. So it has
fragments of weird studies and polemics that people have already forgotten
about. As far as I know it doesn't mention the Plains Indian Sign trade
pidgin, although maybe it limits itself to languages with native speakers.

Angus B. Grieve-Smith
Linguistics Department
The University of New Mexico

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