Mexican Sign Language

Mexican Sign Language
Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
lengua de señas mexicana
Signed in Mexico
Region Cities
Native signers estimated 87,000–100,000 (1986)  (no date)
Language family
French Sign
  • Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mfs

Mexican Sign Language (“lengua de señas mexicana” or LSM, also known by several other names), is the language of the Deaf community in the urban regions of Mexico. It is the language of 87,000 to 100,000 signers (1986 T. C. Smith-Stark).


Geographic distribution and variation

Core signing populations are found in Mexico City, followed by Guadalajara and Monterrey, with a number of smaller cities containing signing communities. Some regional variation is found (80%-90% lexical similarity across the country according to Faurot et al. 2001).

Variation is high between age group and people of completely different religious backgrounds.

Relationship of LSM to Spanish

LSM is quite distinct from Spanish, with completely different verb inflections, different discourse structure and preferences for word order, and little use of the verb to be. However, there is extensive use of initialised signs with one study finding 37% of a 100-word list are initialised, compared to 14% for American Sign Language (Faurot et al. 2001). The same authors suggest that the Deaf community's comprehension of the Spanish language is very low.

The term "Signed Spanish” refers to signing that uses LSM signs (lexicon) in a Spanish word order, with some representations of Spanish morphology. There is a group of suffixes that signed Spanish uses in a way similar to that of signed English, e.g. signed symbols for -dor and -ción (for nouns). Articles and pronouns are fingerspelled. Signed Spanish (or Pidgin Signed Spanish) is often used by interpreters and during public reading or song-leading. Signed Spanish is also used by some hard of hearing and late deafened people.

Relationship to other sign languages

LSM is widely believed by the Deaf community to have derived from Old French Sign Language (OFSL), which combined with pre-existing local sign languages and home sign systems when deaf schools were first established in 1869. However, it is mutually unintelligible with American Sign Language, which emerged from OFSL 50 years earlier in the US.

LSM may have been influenced by Spanish Sign Language.


In 2003, Mexican Sign Language was officially declared a "national language", alongside with Spanish and indigenous languages, to be used in the national education system for the deaf. Before then the major educational philosophy in the country focused on oralism (speech and lipreading) and with few schools that conducted classes in LSM.

A 5-minute signed segment of a nightly television news program was broadcast in Signed Spanish in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s, discontinued in 1992, and resumed as a 2-minute summary of headlines in 1997.

Alternate names

  • Seña Español ("Spanish Sign" - LSM is widely known by this name among the Deaf Community in Mexico, although the language is unrelated to Spanish)
  • Lenguaje de señas mexicano
  • Lenguaje de las Manos
  • Lenguaje Manual Mexicano

See also


  • Karla Faurot, Dianne Dellinger, Andy Eatough, Steve Parkhurst (1992, revised 1998 and 2001) The identity of Mexican sign as a language. © 1999 Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Bickford, J. Albert. 1991. Lexical variation in Mexican Sign Language. Sign Language Studies 72:241–276.
  • Smith-Stark, Thomas C. 1986. La lengua manual Mexicana. Unpublished paper. Colegio de Mexico.
  • Ley Federal para las Personas con Discapacidad. Section III. Article 23.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mexican Sign Language — noun A sign language used in Mexico …   Wiktionary

  • Mexican Sign Language — ISO 639 3 Code : mfs ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Sign language — Two men and a woman signing. A sign language (also signed language) is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language) to convey meaning… …   Wikipedia

  • Mayan Sign Language — Maya Sign Language Signed in Mexico, Guatemala Region Isolated villages in south central Yucatán, Guatemalan Highlands Native signers Unknown. 16 deaf signers and 400–500 hearing signers in primary village. Langua …   Wikipedia

  • Tijuana Sign Language — Signed in Mexico Native signers unknown Language family language isolate? Language codes …   Wikipedia

  • Spanish Sign language — language name= Spanish Sign Language caption=SSL in Spanish manual alphabet nativename=LSE, lengua de signos o señas española fam1=Sign language, unknown origin, from other sign languages. states=Spain region=Undetermined central interior region… …   Wikipedia

  • Language survey — Language surveys are conducted around the world for a variety of reasons, by a variety of agencies and people. *measuring people’s ability to speak and understand another language (usually community based, not school based) (multilingualism)… …   Wikipedia

  • Mexican Texas — History of Texas This article is part of a series Timeline French Texas (1684–1689 …   Wikipedia

  • Mexican Federal Highway 24 — Federal Highway 24 Carretera Federal 24 Highway system Mexican Federal Highways …   Wikipedia

  • Mayan sign languages — language name=Yucatec Maya Sign Language states=Mexico region=Isolated villages in south central Yucatán signers=Unknown. 16 deaf signers and 400–500 hearing signers reported in one village. iso2=sgn MX YUC iso3=msdMaya sign languages are used in …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.