Title: Proposed ISO 639-2 code for Sign Languages
Source: Irish National Body, Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
Date: 1999-09-27

Although linguists have for decades recognized them as true languages, the world's Sign Languages, used by Deaf and hearing people, were overlooked during the drafting of ISO 639-2, the standard which specifies 3-letter codes to identify the names of languages.

It is here proposed that a single 3-letter code, sgn, for Sign Languages be added to ISO 639-2, and that, as necessary, other codes be appended to that code to specify different Sign Languages. The extensions are not proposed for addition to ISO 639-2 itself, as there are no provisions in that standard for such extensions.

Most of the Sign Languages in the table below can be identified by the country in which they are used, by appending the 2-letter country code from ISO 3166-1. A number of them require additionally one of the regional extensions specified in ISO 3166-2; some extensions are language codes taken from the Bibliographical codes found in in ISO 639-2 where further precision is required, such as where more than one Sign Language occurs in a country.

By convention, the language code is written in small letters, and the country code and regional extension are written in capital letters.

In the table, the first column presents the name of the Sign Language and sometimes a link to an external source for it. The second column gives a conventional acronym reported as an alternate name by the DAC (the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting) or by the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics). The third column (SIL language codes) and fourth columns (SIL country entries) link to pages from the 13th edition of the SIL Ethnologue. In the fifth column is the proposed ISO 639-2 extended identifier. In the sixth column a note is added to explain an extension when it consists of more than just the country code.

A number of transcription systems exist to write Sign Languages. Among these are Stokoe, HamNoSys, Bergmann, SignFont, Newkirk, Eshkol-Wahmann, Liddell Movement-Hold, SignPS, Labanotation, Benesh Movement Notation, numerous glossing systems, life-like illustrations placed in special sequences, and SignWriting. The Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting can easily identify hundreds of documents written in SignWriting alone.

Note: The Registration Authority for ISO 639-2 has provisionally accepted to encode "sgn" for Sign Languages; the Joint Advisory Group will meet in 2000-02 to make the final decision.

Name & linkAcronymSIL
SIL country page639-2 + ext.
Adamorobe Sign Language ADSGhana sgn-GH-EPEastern region
Algerian Sign Language ASPAlgeria sgn-DZ 
American Sign LanguageASLASEUSA, Canada sgn-US 
Argentine Sign LanguageLSAAEDArgentina sgn-AR 
Armenian Sign Language AENArmenia sgn-AM 
Australian Aboriginal Sign Language ASWAustralia sgn-AU-NTNorthern Territory
Australian Sign LanguageAuslanASFAustralia sgn-AU 
Austrian Sign LanguageÖGSASQAustria sgn-AT 
Bali Sign Language BQFIndonesia, Java & Bali sgn-ID-BABali
Belgian-Flemish Sign Language BVSBelgium sgn-BE-VLGVlaamse Gewest
Belgian-French Sign Language BVSBelgium sgn-BE-WALRégion Wallonne
Bolivian Sign Language BVLBolivia sgn-BO 
Brazilian Sign LanguageLIBRASBZSBrazil sgn-BR 
British Sign Language BHOUnited Kingdom sgn-GB 
Bulgarian Sign Language BQNBulgaria sgn-BG 
Catalonian Sign Language CSCSpain sgn-ES-CTCataluńa
Chadian Sign Language CDSChad sgn-TD 
Chilean Sign Language CSGChile sgn-CL 
Chinese Sign Language CSLChina sgn-CN 
Colombian Sign Language CSNColombia sgn-CO 
Costa Rican Sign Language CSRCosta Rica sgn-CR 
Czech Sign Language CSECzech Republic sgn-CZ 
Danish Sign LanguageDTSDSLDenmark sgn-DK 
Dutch Sign LanguageNGTDSENetherlands sgn-NL 
Ecuadorian Sign Language ECSEcuador sgn-EC 
El Salvadoran Sign Language ESNEl Salvador sgn-SV 
Eskimo Sign Language ESLCanada sgn-CA-NUNunavut
Ethiopian Sign Language ETHEthiopia sgn-ET 
Finnish Sign Language FSEFinland sgn-FI 
French Canadian Sign LanguageLSQFCSCanada sgn-CA-QCQuébec
French Sign LanguageLSFFSLFrance sgn-FR 
German Sign LanguageDGSGSGGermany sgn-DE 
Ghanaian Sign Language GSEGhana sgn-GH 
Greek Sign Language GSSGreece sgn-GR 
Guatemalan Sign Language GSMGuatemala sgn-GT 
Hawai'i Pidgin Sign Language HPSUSA sgn-US-HIHawai'i
Hong Kong Sign LanguageHKSL Hong Kong sgn-HKnot in SIL
Icelandic Sign Language ICLIceland sgn-IS 
Indonesian Sign Language INLIndonesia, Java & Bali sgn-ID 
Indopakistani Sign LanguageIPSLINSIndia, Pakistan sgn-IN 
Irish Sign LanguageISLISGIreland sgn-IE 
Israeli Sign Language ISLIsrael sgn-IL 
Italian Sign LanguageLISISEItaly sgn-IT 
Jamaican Country Sign Language JCSJamaica sgn-JM 
Japanese Sign Language JSLJapan sgn-JP 
Jordanian Sign LanguageLIUJOSJordan sgn-JO 
Kenyan Sign Language XKIKenya sgn-KE 
Korean Sign Language KVKKorea, South sgn-KR 
Kuala Lumpur Sign Language KGIMalaysia, Peninsular sgn-MY-BSelangor
Latvian Sign Language LSLLatvia sgn-LV 
Libyan Sign Language LBSLibya sgn-LY 
Lithuanian Sign Language LLSLithuania sgn-LT 
Lyons Sign Language LSGFrance sgn-FR-69Rhône
Malaysian Sign Language XMLMalaysia, Peninsular sgn-MY 
Maltese Sign LanguageLSMAMDLMalta sgn-MT 
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language MREUSA sgn-US-MAMassachussetts
Mayan Sign Language MSDMexico sgn-MX-YUCYucatán
Mexican Sign LanguageLSMMFSMexico sgn-MX 
Monastic Sign Language MZGHoly See sgn-VA 
Mongolian Sign Language QMMMongolia sgn-MN 
Moroccan Sign Language XMSMorocco sgn-MA 
Namibian Sign Language NBSNamibia sgn-NA 
Nepalese Sign Language NSPNepal sgn-NP 
New Zealand Sign Language NZSNew Zealand sgn-NZ 
Nicaraguan Sign LanguageISNNCSNicaragua sgn-NI 
Nigerian Sign Language NSINigeria sgn-NG 
Norwegian Sign LanguageNTSNSLNorway sgn-NO 
Nova Scotian Sign Language NSRCanada sgn-CA-NSNova Scotia
Old Kentish Sign Language OKLUnited Kingdom sgn-GB-KENKent
Penang Sign Language PSGMalaysia, Peninsular sgn-MY-PPulau Pinang
Persian Sign Language PSCIran sgn-IR 
Peruvian Sign Language PRLPeru sgn-PE 
Philippine Sign Language PSPPhilippines sgn-PH 
Plains Sign TalkPSTPSDUSA sgn-US-SDSouth Dakota
Polish Sign Language PSOPoland sgn-PL 
Portuguese Sign Language PSRPortugal sgn-PT 
Providencia Sign Language PROColombia sgn-CO-SAPProvidencia Island
Puerto Rican Sign LanguagePRSLPSLPuerto Rico sgn-PR 
Rennellese Sign Language RSISolomon Islands sgn-SB 
Romanian Sign Language RMSRomania sgn-RO 
Russian Sign Language RSLRussia, Europe sgn-RU 
Saudi Arabian Sign Language SDLSaudi Arabia sgn-SA 
Scandinavian Pidgin Sign Language SPFSweden sgn-SE-crpSweden & Creole
Singapore Sign Language SLSSingapore sgn-SG 
Slovakian Sign Language SVKSlovakia sgn-SK 
South African Sign Language SFSSouth Africa sgn-ZA 
Spanish Sign LanguageLSESSPSpain sgn-ES 
Sri Lankan Sign Language SQSSri Lanka sgn-LK 
Swedish Sign LanguageSTSSWLSweden sgn-SE 
Swiss-French Sign Language SSRSwitzerland sgn-CH-GEGenčve
Swiss-German Sign Language SGGSwitzerland sgn-CH-ZHZürich
Swiss-Italian Sign Language SLFSwitzerland sgn-CH-TITicino
Taiwanese Sign LanguageTSLTSSTaiwan sgn-TW 
Tanzanian Sign Language TZATanzania sgn-TZ 
Thai Sign Language TSQThailand sgn-TH 
Tunisian Sign Language TSETunisia sgn-TN 
Turkish Sign Language TSMTurkey sgn-TR 
Ugandan Sign Language UGNUganda sgn-UG 
Ukrainian Sign Language UKLUkraine sgn-UA 
Urubú-Kaapor Sign Language UKSBrazil sgn-BR-MAMaranhão
Uruguayan Sign Language UGYUruguay sgn-UY 
Venezuelan Sign Language VSLVenezuela sgn-VE 
Yiddish Sign Language YDSIsrael sgn-IL-yidIsrael & Yiddish
Yugoslavian Sign Language YSLYugoslavia sgn-YU 
Zambian Sign Language ZSLZambia sgn-ZM 
Zimbabwe Sign Language ZIBZimbabwesgn-ZW 

SIL's Ethnologue reports a number of signed versions of spoken languages. The list below may not be complete, but it can be seen that by suffixing an ISO 639-2 Bibliographic language code to the Sign Language code and then following that with a country code, adequate precision can be obtained.

Name & LinkAcronymSIL
SIL Country639-2 + ext.
Signed Afrikaans  South Africa sgn-afr-ZA 
Signed Chinese  Taiwan sgn-chi-TW 
Signed Danish  Denmark sgn-dan-DK 
Signed Dutch  Belgium sgn-dut-BE 
Signed Dutch  Netherlands sgn-dut-NL 
Signed English  United Kingdom sgn-eng-GB 
Signed English  Ireland sgn-eng-IE 
Signed English  USA sgn-eng-US 
Signed Finnish  Finland sgn-fin-FI 
Signed French  Belgium sgn-fre-BE 
Signed French  Canada sgn-fre-CA 
Signed French  France sgn-fre-FR 
Signed Japanese  Japan sgn-jpn-JP 
Signed Norwegian  Norway sgn-nor-NO 
Signed Portuguese  Portugal sgn-por-PT 
Signed Swedish  Sweden sgn-swe-SE 

Michael Everson, Evertype, Dublin, 2001-09-21