Stokoe Notation (sign language)

Lorna Evans lorna_evans at
Tue Mar 7 11:46:41 CST 2017

Hi Simon,

I did a lot of research on Stokoe Notation between 2010-2012. It has 
primarily been used in dictionaries. When I presented that document 
(L2/12-133) to UTC, these are the summary notes I took:

We only had about 10-15 minutes to discuss Stokoe Notation in the main 
UTC but they decided to have an ad-hoc meeting at lunch so we had about 
40 minutes over lunch on Stokoe. There was no support for encoding it as 
a script. They feel it "should not be encoded as a script any more than 
math or music is a script. " It "doesn't make sense to do it as plain 
text...would be a serious mistake". So, they want it to use all the 
existing Latin characters and symbols in the standard and just encode 
new characters as symbols and then use a higher level protocol for the 
shaping. All the fancy layout can be expressed in MathML.

I think I still disagree (I think it should be encoded as a writing 
system), but Stokoe isn't high on my list of priorities and I haven't 
had a chance to do further research. Major dictionaries that have been 
produced using Stokoe Notation are for British Sign Language (BSL), 
American Sign Language (ASL), Hong Kong Sign Language (HKSL), Signed 
Swedish (SS), Italian Sign Language (LIS) and Czech Sign Language. I 
also reviewed books or documents discussing Dutch Sign Language (DSE) 
and Australian Aboriginal (ASL).

Each and every one of these had differing levels of rendering 
requirements (from very minor all the way to the need for control codes 
for positioning) because they had "enhanced" the original ASL Stokoe 
Notation. I feel it's complex enough that it should definitely have 
further research done on it. I just don't have the time to put on it at 
this point. (The L2/12-133 document didn't include a review of Czech 
Sign Language. When I did get a copy of that dictionary I discovered 
even more enhancements. I never documented those.)


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Stokoe Notation (sign language)
From: Simon Cozens <simon at>
To: unicode Unicode Discussion <unicode at>
CC: lorna_evans at
Date: 3/6/2017 4:48 PM
> Hello,
> 	A few years back, there was a set of questions to the UTC (L2/12-133)
> asking for direction on encoding Stokoe notation. Did these ever get an
> answer, and is there anything currently happening with Stokoe encoding?
> Simon

More information about the Unicode mailing list