Japanese Sign Language family

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Japanese Sign Language
East Asia
Linguistic classification: One of the world's sign language families
Glottolog: jsli1234[1]

The Japanese Sign Language (JSL) family is a language family of three sign languages: Japanese Sign Language (JSL), Korean Sign Language (KSL), and Taiwanese Sign Language (TSL).[2]

There is little difficulty in communication between the three languages.[3]


The first Japanese school for the deaf was established in Kyoto in 1878.

JSL spread with the Japanese colonial administration into Korea and Taiwan. According to Ethnologue, sign language had been used in Korea since 1889, predating the Japanese occupation, with use in schools since 1908. TSL dates from 1895, during the colonial period, when two schools for the deaf were established on north and south of the island. TSL shares 60% of its vocabulary with JSL.[3]

Functional markers

JSL family languages are characterized by grammatical structures and features which are not found in the oral languages of the surrounding community. Although Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin are unrelated, those using JSL, KSL and TSL can interact easily because of the commonalities all share, such as functional markers .[4] For example, a feature unique to these three languages is the lexical encoding of gender. Some signs when made with the thumb indicate a male, while the corresponding signs made with the little finger indicate a female.[5]

As in other sign languages, they incorporate non-manual markers with lexical, syntactic, discourse, and affective functions. These include brow raising and furrowing, frowning, head shaking and nodding, and leaning and shifting the torso.[6]


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "JSLic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Fischer, Susan D. et al. (2010). "Variation in East Asian Sign Language Structures" in Sign Languages, p. 499., p. 499, at Google Books
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fischer, "Variation," p. 501., p. 501, at Google Books
  4. Fischer, Susan D. (2008). "Sign Languages East and West" in Unity and Diversity of Languages, pp. 6-15., p. 6, at Google Books
  5. Fischer, "Variation," p. 513., p. 513, at Google Books
  6. Fischer, "Variation," p. 507., p. 507, at Google Books