List of sign languages

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There are perhaps three hundred sign languages in use around the world today. The number is not known with any confidence; new sign languages emerge frequently through creolization and de novo (and occasionally through language planning). In some countries, such as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, each school for the deaf may have a separate language, known only to its students and sometimes denied by the school; on the other hand, countries may share sign languages, though sometimes under different names (Croatian and Serbian, Indian and Pakistani). Deaf sign languages also arise outside of educational institutions, especially in village communities with high levels of congenital deafness, but there are significant sign languages developed for the hearing as well, such as the speech-taboo languages used in aboriginal Australia. Scholars are doing field surveys to identify the world's sign languages.[1][2][3][4]

The following list is grouped into three sections:

  • Deaf sign languages, which are the preferred languages of Deaf communities around the world; these include village sign languages, shared with the hearing community, and Deaf-community sign languages
  • Auxiliary sign languages, which are not native languages but sign systems of varying complexity, used alongside oral languages. Simple gestures are not included, as they do not constitute language.
  • Signed modes of spoken languages, also known as manually coded languages, which are bridges between signed and spoken languages

The list of deaf sign languages is sorted regionally and alphabetically, and such groupings should not be taken to imply any genetic relationships between these languages (see List of language families).[5]

Sign Language List

Deaf sign languages - Contemporary


For more detail see African sign languages

There are at least 25 sign languages in Africa, according to researcher Nobutaka Kamei.[6][7][8] Some have distributions that are completely independent of those of African spoken languages. At least 13 foreign sign languages, mainly from Europe and America, have been introduced to at least 27 African nations; some of the 23 sign languages documented by Kamei have originated with or been influenced by them.

Language Origin[9] Notes
Adamorobe Sign Language village sign (ADS) (Ghana)
Algerian Sign Language French
Bamako Sign Language local Deaf community used by adult men. Threatened by ASL.
Bura Sign Language village in Nigeria
Burkina Sign Language local[10] Ouagadougou (Langue des Signes Mossi)
Chadian Sign Language ASL:Nigerian?
Dogon Sign Language local? village?
Eritrean Sign Language artificial
Ethiopian sign languages 1 million signers of an unknown number of languages
Francophone African Sign Language ASL & spoken French The development of ASL in Francophone West Africa
Gambian Sign Language ASL
Ghanaian Sign Language ASL (GSE)
Guinean Sign Language ASL
Guinea-Bissau Sign Language local incipient/basic
Hausa Sign Language local "Maganar Hannu" (HSL) – Northern Nigeria (Kano State)
Kenyan Sign Language local? (KSL or LAK)
Libyan Sign Language Arab?
Malagasy Sign Language French:Danish:Norwegian (or "Madagascan Sign Language") May be a dialect of Norwegian SL
Mauritian Sign Language isolate
Mofu-Gudur Sign Language village not clear if this is a SL, or the gestures accompanying spokenMofu-Gudur
Moroccan Sign Language ASL
Mozambican Sign Language
Mbour Sign Language local M'Bour, Senegal
Namibian Sign Language Paget-Gorman
Nanabin Sign Language village a deaf family in Nanabin, Ghana
Nigerian Sign Language ASL
Rwandan Sign Language  ?
Sierra Leonean Sign Language ASL
Somali Sign Language Kenyan SL
South African Sign Language British (SASL)
Sudanese sign languages village & local? Government proposal to unify local languages
Tanzanian sign languages local (seven independent languages, one for each deaf school in Tanzania, with little mutual influence)
Tebul Sign Language village (Tebul Ure SL) Mopti, Mali (village of Tebul Ure)
Tunisian Sign Language French:Italian
Ugandan Sign Language local? (USL)
Yoruba Sign Language local (YSL)
Zambian Sign Language (ZASL)
Zimbabwean sign languages "sign language" is an official language


Language Origin Notes
American Sign Language French (ASL)
Argentine Sign Language  ? (LSA)
Bolivian Sign Language ASL "Lenguaje de Señas Bolivianas" (LSB)
Brazilian Sign Language isolate Libras (Lingua Brasileira de Sinais)[11]
The official second language of Brazil alongside Portuguese.[12]
Bribri Sign Language village?
Brunca Sign Language village?
Chatino Sign Language village
Chilean Sign Language French? Lenguaje de Señas Chileno (LSCH)
Colombian Sign Language (CSN) / Lengua de Señas Colombiana (LSC)
Costa Rican Sign Language at least 4 languages in Costa Rica (Woodward 1991)
Old Costa Rican Sign Language
Cuban Sign Language
Dominican Sign Language ASL
Ecuadorian Sign Language
Greenlandic Sign Language "Kalaallisut Ussersuutit"
Guatemalan Sign Language
Guyanese Sign Language  ?
Honduras Sign Language Mexican? "Lengua de señas hondureña" (LESHO)
Inuit Sign Language village "Inuit Uqausiqatigiit Uukturausiq Uqajuittunut (General Inuit Sign Language for Deaf)"[citation needed] also known as Inuiuuk (ᐃᓄᐃᐆᒃ)
There may be more than one. The indigenous languages is an isolate.
Jamaican Sign Language ASL (JSL)
Jamaican Country Sign Language local (JCSL)
Kajana Sign Language village Kajana Gebarentaal
Keresan Sign Language village (KPISL)
Maritime Sign Language British
Mayan Sign Language village
Mexican Sign Language French "Lengua de señas mexicana" (LSM)
Navajo Sign Language PISL[citation needed]
Nicaraguan Sign Language local "Idioma de señas nicaragüense" (ISN)
Old Cayman Sign Language village gave rise to Providence Island SL?
Quebec Sign Language French-ASL mix "Langue des Signes Québécoise" (LSQ)
Panamanian Sign Language ASL, some Salvadoran influence "Lengua de señas panameñas"
Paraguayan Sign Language related to Uruguayan? "Lengua de Señas Paraguaya" (LSPy)
Peruvian Sign Language isolate "Lengua de señas peruana"
Puerto Rican Sign Language ASL "Lengua se señas puertorriqueña"
Providence Island Sign Language village
Salvadoran Sign Language isolate
Trinidad and Tobago Sign Language isolate? ASL taught in schools; most Deaf bilingual
Uruguayan Sign Language "Lengua de Señas Uruguaya"
Urubú Sign Language village (AKA Kaapor Sign Language)
Venezuelan Sign Language isolate "Lengua de señas venezolana" (LSV)


Language Origin Notes
Afghan Sign Language indig, or ASL creole?
Alipur Sign Language village
Amami Oshima Sign Language village or idioglossia Japan
Auslan British (Australian Sign Language)
Ban Khor Sign Language village (Plaa Pag is a dialect)
Bhutanese Sign Language  ?
Burmese sign language  ? may be two languages
Cambodian Sign Language = ASL
Chinese Sign Language Chinese "中國手語" (ZGS)
Enga Sign Language village PNG
Ghandruk Sign Language village (Nepal)
Hawaiʻi Sign Language  ?
Hong Kong Sign Language Chinese "香港手語" (HKSL). Derives from the southern dialect of CSL.
Huay Hai Sign Language village (Thailand) [no data]
Indo-Pakistani Sign Language Indian conflicting reports on whether Indian and Pakistani SL are one language or two.
Jakarta Sign Language ASL:Malaysian?:Indonesian a variety of Indonesian Sign Language
Japanese Sign Language Japanese "Nihon Shuwa (日本手話?)" (JSL)
Jhankot Sign Language village (Nepal)
Jumla Sign Language village (Nepal)
Kata Kolok village (AKA Bali Sign Language, Benkala Sign Language)
Laotian Sign Language (related to Vietnamese languages; may be more than one SL)
Korean Sign Language Japanese "한국수어 (or 한국수화)" / "Hanguk Soo-hwa"
Macau Sign Language "澳門手語"[citation needed]
Malaysian Sign Language ASL "Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia" (BIM)
Mongolian Sign Language  ? "Монгол дохионы хэл"
Na Sai Sign Language village (Thailand) [no data]
Naga Sign Language village? (India) last reported in 1921
Nepali Sign Language Indian Indigenous sign language with inputs from Indian Sign Language, American Sign Language, International Sign, and others
New Zealand Sign Language British (NZSL)
Old Bangkok Sign Language local (or village?)
Old Chiangmai Sign Language local (or village?)
Papua New Guinean Sign Language British
Penang Sign Language local (Malaysia)
Philippine Sign Language French (PSP)
Rennellese Sign Language village (Solomon Islands)
Samoan Sign Language Auslang
Selangor Sign Language ASL? (Malaysia)
Singapore Sign Language "新加坡手语" is actually just Signed Exact English. The daily language is unknown.
Sri Lankan sign languages local (14 deaf schools with different languages)
Taiwanese Sign Language Japanese 臺灣手語 / Taiwan Ziran Shouyu
Tibetan Sign Language local
Thai Sign Language ASL (TSL) "แบบสะกดนิ้วมือไทย" (incl. Hai Yai)
Vietnamese sign languages local (Hanoi Sign Language, Ho Chi Minh Sign Language, Haiphong Sign Language; some may be related to some of the Thai languages)
Yogyakarta Sign Language ASL:Malaysian?:Indonesian a variety of Indonesian Sign Language
Yolŋu Sign Language local


Language Origin Notes
Albanian Sign Language "Gjuha e Shenjave Shqipe"
Armenian Sign Language isolate
Austrian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Österreichische Gebärdensprache" (ÖGS)
British Sign Language British (BSL)
Bulgarian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Russian
Catalan Sign Language French? (or "Catalonian Sign Language") "Llengua de Signes Catalana" (LSC)
Croatian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Yugoslav (Croslan) "Hrvatski Znakovni Jezik" (HZJ)[13]
Czech Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Český znakový jazyk" (CZJ)
Cyprus Sign Language ASL×GSL "Κυπριακή Νοηματική Γλώσσα" (CSL) [14]
Danish Sign Language French "Dansk Tegnsprog" (DTS)
Dutch Sign Language French "Nederlandse Gebarentaal" (NGT)
Estonian Sign Language "Eesti viipekeel"
Finnish Sign Language Swedish "Suomalainen viittomakieli" (SVK)
Finland-Swedish Sign Language Swedish "finlandssvenskt teckenspråk" (Swedish) or "suomenruotsalainen viittomakieli" (Finnish). A single Swedish school in Finland, now closed.
Flemish Sign Language Lyons?:Belgian "Vlaamse Gebarentaal" (VGT)
French Sign Language "Langues des Signes Française" (LSF)
Georgian Sign Language  ? [1]
German Sign Language German "Deutsche Gebärdensprache" (DGS)
Greek Sign Language French-ASL mix "Ελληνική Νοηματική Γλώσσα" (GSL)
Hungarian Sign Language "Magyar jelnyelv"
Icelandic Sign Language French:Danish "Íslenskt Táknmál"
Irish Sign Language French "Teanga Chomharthaíochta na hÉireann" (ISL/ISG and TCÉ)
Italian Sign Language French "Lingua dei Segni Italiana" (LIS)
Kosovar Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Yugoslav "Gjuha e Shenjave Kosovare" (GjShK)
Latvian Sign Language French "Latviešu Zīmju Valoda"
Lithuanian Sign Language "Lietuvių gestų kalba"
Lyons Sign Language isolate (or Lyons family)
Macedonian Sign Language  ? Македонски знаковен јазик / Makedonski znakoven jazik
Maltese Sign Language "Lingwi tas-Sinjali Maltin" (LSM)
Northern Ireland Sign Language British (mixed)
Norwegian Sign Language French:Danish "Tegnspråk" (NSL)
Polish Sign Language German "Polski Język Migowy" (PJM)
Portuguese Sign Language Swedish "Língua Gestual Portuguesa" (LGP)
Romanian Sign Language French "Limbaj Mimico-Gestual Românesc" (LMG)
Russian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Russkiy zhestovyi yazyk" / русский жестовый язык
Slovakian Sign Language "Slovenský posunkový jazyk"
Slovenian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Yugoslav "Slovenski znakovni jezik"
Spanish Sign Language isolate "Lengua de signos española" (LSE)
Swedish Sign Language Swedish "Svenskt teckenspråk" (TSP)
Swiss-French Sign Language French? "Langage Gestuelle"
Swiss-German Sign Language French? "Deutschschweizer Gebärdensprache" (DSGS)
Swiss-Italian Sign Language French?
Ukrainian Sign Language French "Українська жестова мова (УЖМ)"
Valencian Sign Language "Llengua de Signes en la Comunitat Valenciana" (LSCV)
Walloon Sign Language Lyons?:Belgian "Langue des Signes de Belgique Francophone" (LSFB)
Yugoslav Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian

Middle East

Language Origin Notes
Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language village (ABSL), Negev
Egyptian Sign Language Arab
Emirati Sign Language Arab?
Ghardaia Sign Language village (Algerian Jewish Sign Language) deaf & hearing, Algeria → Israel
Iraqi Sign Language Arab العراقى مترجمي لغة الاشارة Perhaps close to Levantine.
Israeli Sign Language local שפת סימנים ישראלית
Jordanian Sign Language Arab, Levantine Lughat il-Ishaarah il-Urduniah / الاردنية مترجمي لغة الاشارة (LIU)
Kuwaiti Sign Language Arab? لغة الاشارة الكويتية
Lebanese Sign Language Arab, Levantine Lughat al-Isharat al-Lubnaniya / لغة الإشارات اللبنانية
Mardin Sign Language village one extended family in Turkey[15]
Omani Sign Language Arab?
Palestinian Sign Language Arab, Levantine "لغة الاشارات الفلسطينية"
Persian Sign Language
Qatari Unified Sign Language Arab?
Saudi Sign Language isolate "لغة الإشارة السعودية"
Seraglio Sign Language Ottoman court
Syrian Sign Language Arab, Levantine
Turkish Sign Language "Türk İşaret Dili" (TİD)
Yemeni Sign Language Arab "لغة الإشارة اليمنية"

Historical deaf sign languages

Auxiliary sign languages

Signed modes of spoken languages

For a more extensive list see Manually Coded Language. This page lists only those MCLs with pages on Wikipedia.

Genetic classification of sign languages

Languages are assigned families (implying a genetic relationships between these languages) as British, Swedish (perhaps a branch of BSL), French (with branches ASL (American), Austro-Hungarian, Danish, Italian), German, Japanese, and language isolates.

See also


  1. Woodward, James. 1991. The relationship of sign language varieties in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Sign Language Studies 78: 15-22.
  2. Parkhurst, Stephen and Dianne Parkhurst. 1998. Introduction to Sign Language survey. Notes on Sociolinguistics 3: 215-42.
  3. Ciupek-Reed, Julia. 2012. Participatory methods in sociolinguistic sign language survey: A case study in El Salvador. University of North Dakota MA thesis. Ciupek-Reed's thesis
  4. Russell R. Aldersson and Lisa J. McEntee-Atalianis. 2007. A Lexical Comparison of Icelandic Sign Language and Danish Sign Language. Birkbeck Studies in Applied Linguistics 2 Icelandic & Danish Sign Languages
  5. For a classification, see Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215-88.PDF
  6. Kamei, Nobutaka. The Birth of Langue des Signes Franco-Africaine: Creole ASL in West and Central French-speaking Africa, paper presented at Languages and Education in Africa (LEA), University of Oslo, June 19–22, 2006.
  7. Kamei, Nobutaka (2004). The Sign Languages of Africa, "Journal of African Studies" (Japan Association for African Studies) Vol.64, March, 2004. [NOTE: Kamei lists 23 African sign languages in this article].
  8. "History of the Deaf and sign languages in Africa" (in Japanese). December 25, 2006.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Africa - Sign Language - LibGuides at Gallaudet University Library". 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2012-05-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Diane Brentari, Sign Languages, p 406
  11. "Structure of ASL and Libras". University of Connecticut. Retrieved 1 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Lei 10.436". Brazilian Government. Retrieved 23 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Pamela Perniss, Roland Pfau, Markus Steinbach; Visible Variation. Walter de Gruyter, 2007. (p.ix)
  14. EUD. "European Union of the Deaf: Cyprus". Retrieved 2012-05-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Mardin Sign Language - Mardin SL - University of Central Lancashire". 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2012-05-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links