Macrolanguage and extlang

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Mon Jul 16 15:05:40 UTC 2007

SignWriting List
July 16, 2007

GerardM wrote:
> FYI On the LTRU mailing list there is a discussion on how to deal  
> with sign languages. This is a very welcome thing because at this  
> moment sgn-US is considered to be American Sign Language while  
> there are several sign languages associated with the territory of  
> the USA. From my perspective the association of sign languages with  
> flags is cute but it is broken in many places. The way I understand  
> this is that where sgn-US is used it is still understood to mean  
> American Sign Language, it is however better to use the more  
> correct ase code. NB this is something that is now under  
> discussion, it has not been decided yet, in all likely hood it will  
> be,  Thanks, GerardM

Hello Gerard!
Thank you for this message. Whatever programmers feel is best is fine  
with me...I personally do not use language codes at all any longer,  
since the system that Michael Everson devised is now under  
question...I like it, but clearly others do not, so I have accepted  
that it probably will be changed.

Just for your general information (not that it really matters ;-)  
there is a name for EVERY dialect in every country in the sgn coding  
system Michael devised...

It is explained on this web page:

A summary:

The majority natively-evolved signed language of each country takes  
the main name: sgn+country code

So sgn-US means American Sign Language (and not the other languages  
in the country) because it is the natively-evolved signed language of  
the majority of Deaf people in the US

Then the other dialects take regional codes and specialized language  
codes that are attached to the country codes...

Such as:

sgn-CH-fr for Swiss-French Sign Language
sgn-CH-it for Swiss-Italian Sign Language
sgn-CH-de for Swiss German Sign Language

In several English-speaking countries they use a form of Signed- 

Here is how Michael handled Signed English:

sgn-eng-GB...Signed English in Great Britain
sgn-eng-IE.....Signed English in Ireland
sgn-eng-US...Signed English in the US

In the US:

sgn-US...American Sign Language
sgn-eng-US....Signed English in the US
sgn-US-SD...Plains Indian Sign Language used in the South Dakota region

But as I said, it doesn't matter what system you choose, because non- 
programmers will not be using codes anyway, so you need to choose  
something that works in your programming environment. To those who  
use ASL, ASL is the name of the language, and they will neither use  
the term sgn-US or ASE...neither will be understood...

Meanwhile our little flags have nothing to do with encoding..that is  
just web design to help people find their countries and certainly no  
flag system is perfect either and never will be...I think Michael's  
sgn-encoding system is more accurate than flags....

As far as how to handle flags with multiple signed languages, take a  
look at the French-Swiss flags...they have a little fr, it, or de in  
the right show their region...that was my meager attempt  
to help navigation ;-))

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Thanks for this message, Gerard!

And good luck with finding a good coding system for all these signed  

Val ;-)


> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Doug Ewell <>
> Date: Jul 16, 2007 12:20 AM
> Subject: [Ltru] Re: Macrolanguage and extlang
> To: LTRU Working Group <ltru at>
> The proposed text makes no special arrangement for sign languages, but
> ties the Macrolanguage field to ISO 639-3 assignments.  Shall I  
> assume,
> using American Sign Language as an example, that the plan is to
> deprecate "sgn-US" and assign it a Preferred-Value of "ase", but  
> not to
> give "ase" a Macrolanguage field?
> %%
> Type: language
> Subtag: ase
> Description: American Sign Language
> Added: 20xx-xx-xx
> %%
> Type: redundant
> Tag: sgn-US
> Description: American Sign Language
> Added: 2001-03-02
> Preferred-Value: ase
> Deprecated: 20xx-xx-xx
> %%
> How should people then interpret the existing language subtag "sgn"?
> --
> Doug Ewell  *  Fullerton, California, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14
> _______________________________________________
> Ltru mailing list
> Ltru at

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