List of sign languages

List of sign languages

There are perhaps around two 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.

The following list is grouped into three sections:

  • Deaf sign languages, which are the preferred languages of Deaf communities around the world;
  • Signed modes of spoken languages, also known as manually coded languages, which are a bridge between the deaf and oral languages;
  • Auxiliary sign systems, which are not native languages, but are signed systems of varying complexity used in addition to oral languages. Simple gestures are not included, as they do not constitute language.

The list is sorted alphabetically and regionally, and such groupings should not be taken to imply any genetic relationships between the languages (see List of language families).[1]


Deaf sign languages

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



There are at least 25 sign languages in Africa, according to researcher Nobutaka Kamei.[2][3][4] 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 Family Notes
Adamorobe Sign Language isolate (ADS) (Ghana)
Algerian Sign Language French
Bamako Sign Language isolate? ASL? (Malian Sign Language) in a school in Mali. Ethnologue contradicts itself.
Bura Sign Language isolate in Nigeria (PDF link)
Burkina Sign Language isolate Ouagadougou
Chadian Sign Language French:ASL:Nigerian?
Congolesian Sign Language  ? [citation needed]
Egyptian Sign Language  ?
Ethiopian sign languages 1 million signers of an unknown number of languages
Franco-American Sign Language French × ASL a pidgin observed in Cameroon and elsewhere in West and Central Africa.[citation needed]
Gambian Sign Language French:ASL
Ghanaian Sign Language French:ASL (GSE)
Guinean Sign Language French:ASL
Guinea-Bissau Sign Language isolate
Hausa Sign Language isolate "Maganar Hannu" (HSL) – Northern Nigeria (Kano State)
Kenyan Sign Language isolate (KSL or LAK)
Libyan Sign Language
Malagasy Sign Language French:Danish:Norwegian (or "Madagascan Sign Language") May be a dialect of Norwegian SL
Moroccan Sign Language French:ASL
Mozambican Sign Language
Mbour Sign Language isolate Mbour, Senegal
Namibian Sign Language
Nanabin Sign Language isolate a deaf family in Nanabin, Ghana
Nigerian Sign Language French:ASL
Sierra Leone Sign Language French:ASL
Somali Sign Language [citation needed]
South African Sign Language British (SASL)
Sudanese Sign Language local Government proposal to unify local languages
Tanzanian sign languages several isolates (seven independent languages, one for each deaf school in Tanzania, with little mutual influence)
Tebul Sign Language (Tebul Ure SL) Mopti, Mali (village of Tebul Ure)
Tunisian Sign Language French:Italian
Ugandan Sign Language  ? (USL)
Zambian Sign Language (ZASL)
Zimbabwean Sign Language

The Americas

Language Family Notes
American Sign Language French (ASL)
Argentine Sign Language  ? (LSA)
Bolivian Sign Language French:ASL "Lenguaje de Señas Bolivianas" (LSB)
Brazilian Sign Language isolate "Lingua Brasileira de Sinais" (LIBRAS)
Chilean Sign Language French? Lenguaje de Señas Chileno (LSCH)
Colombian Sign Language (CSN)
Costa Rican sign languages at least 4 language (Woodward 1991)
Cuban Sign Language
Ecuadorian Sign Language
Greenlandic Inuit Sign Language "Kalaallisut Ussersuutit"[citation needed]
Guatemalan Sign Language
Honduras Sign Language "Lengua de señas hondureña" (LESHO)
Inuit Sign Language French:ASL?
"Inuit Uqausiqatigiit Uukturausiq Uqajuittunut (General Inuit Sign Language for Deaf)"[citation needed]
There may be more than one. The indigenous languages is an isolate.
Inuktitut Sign Language French:ASL? "Inuktitut Uukturausiq/Tikuqqat"[citation needed]
Jamaican Country Sign Language (JCSL)
Maritime Sign Language British
Mayan Sign Language isolate
Mexican Sign Language French "Lengua de señas mexicana" (LSM)
Nicaraguan Sign Language isolate "Idioma de señas nicaragüense" (ISN)
Quebec Sign Language French-ASL mix "Langue des Signes Québécoise" (LSQ)
Panamanian Sign Language "Lengua de señas panameñas"[citation needed]
Peruvian Sign Language isolate "Lengua de señas peruana"
Puerto Rican Sign Language French:ASL "Lengua se señas puertorriqueño"
Providence Island Sign Language isolate
Salvadoran Sign Language isolate
Tijuana Sign Language isolate
Uruguayan Sign Language "Lengua de Señas Uruguaya"
Urubú Sign Language isolate (aka Kaapor Sign Language)
Venezuelan Sign Language isolate "Lengua de señas venezolana" (LSV)


Language Family Notes
Afghan Sign Language
Auslan British (Australian Sign Language)
Bruneian Sign Language "Bahasa Isyarat Brunei"[citation needed]
Cambodian Sign Language [citation needed]
Chinese Sign Language isolate "中國手語" (ZGS)
Filipino Sign Language French (Philippine Sign Language, PSP)
Ghandruk Sign Language isolate? (Nepal)
Hawaii Pidgin Sign Language French:ASL
Hong Kong Sign Language Chinese "香港手語" (HKSL). Derives from the southern dialect of CSL.
Huay Hai Sign Language (Thailand)[citation needed] [may be dialect of Ban Khor]
Indo-Pakistani Sign Language Indian conflicting reports on whether Indian and Pakistani SL are one language or two.
Indonesian Sign Language French:ASL:Malaysian "Bahasa Isyarat Indonesia" (BII)
Japanese Sign Language Japanese "Nihon Shuwa (日本手話?)" (JSL)
Jhankot Sign Language isolate (Nepal)
Jumla Sign Language isolate (Nepal)
Kata Kolok isolate (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 French:ASL "Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia" (BIM)
Mongolian Sign Language  ?
Na Sai Sign Language (may be dialect of Ban Khor) (Thailand)[citation needed]
Nepali Sign Language Indian
New Zealand Sign Language British (NZSL)
Penang Sign Language isolate (Malaysia)
Rennellese Sign Language isolate (Solomon Islands)
Samoan Sign Language [citation needed]
Selangor Sign Language (Malaysia)
Singapore Sign Language "新加坡手语" is actually just Signed Exact English. The daily language is unknown.
Sri Lankan sign languages several isolates (14 deaf schools with different languages)
Taiwanese Sign Language Japanese 臺灣手語 / Taiwan Ziran Shouyu
Tibetan Sign Language  ? [citation needed]
Thailand sign languages (Thai Sign Language French:ASL (TSL) "แบบสะกดนิ้วมือไทย" (incl. Hai Yai); Ban Khor Sign Language (Plaa Pag is a dialect); Old Bangkok Sign Language; Old Chiangmai Sign Language; possibly other undocumented village SLs)
Vietnamese sign languages isolates or small family? (Hanoi Sign Language, Ho Chi Minh Sign Language, Haiphong Sign Language; some may be related to some of the Thai languages)


Language Family Notes
Albanian Sign Language "Gjuha e Shenjave Shqipe"[citation needed]
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)[5]
Czech Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Český znakový jazyk" (CZJ)
Cyprus Sign Language "Κυπριακή Νοηματική Γλώσσα" (CSL) [6]
Danish Sign Language French "Tegnsprog"
Dutch Sign Language French "Nederlandse Gebarentaal" (NGT), also commonly known as "Sign Language of the Netherlands" (SLN)
Estonian Sign Language "Eesti viipekeel"
Finnish Sign Language Swedish "Suomalainen viittomakieli" (SVK)
Finland-Swedish Sign Language Swedish "finlandssvenskt teckenspråk" (Swedish) or "suomenruotsalainen viittomakieli" (Finnish)
Flemish Sign Language Lyons?:Belgian "Vlaamse Gebarentaal" (VGT)
French Sign Language "Langues des Signes Française" (LSF)
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
Russian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Russkiy zhestovyi yazyk" / русский жестовый язык
Slovakian Sign Language "Slovník Posunkovej Reči"
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?
Turkish Sign Language "Türk İşaret Dili" (TİD)
Ukrainian Sign Language "українська жестова мова"
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 "Srpski znak jezika" / "Српски знак језика"[citation needed]

Middle East

Language Family Notes
Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language isolate (ABSL), Negev
Ghadaia Sign Language isolate? deaf & hearing, Algeria → Israel[7]
Iraqi Sign Language العراقى مترجمي لغة الاشارة[citation needed]
Israeli Sign Language German? שפת סימנים ישראלית
Jordanian Sign Language ≈ Palestinian Lughat il-Ishaarah il-Urduniah / الاردنية مترجمي لغة الاشارة (LIU) Related to Palestinian, but not to Kuwaiti or Libyan
Kuwaiti Sign Language لغة الاشارة الكويتية[citation needed]
Lebanese Sign Language Lughat al-Isharat al-Lubnaniya / لغة الإشارات اللبنانية[citation needed]
Libyan Sign Language
Omani Sign Language "العماني لغة الأشارة"[citation needed]
Palestinian Sign Language ≈ Jordanian "لغة الاشارات الفلسطينية"
Persian Sign Language
Qatari Sign Language "القطري لغة الأشارة"[citation needed]
Saudi Sign Language isolate "السعودية مترجمي لغة الاشارة"
United Arab Emirates Sign Language "الامارات مترجمي لغة الاشارة"[citation needed]
Yemeni Sign Language "اليمني لغة الأشارة"[citation needed]
Yiddish Sign Language

Historical sign languages

Auxiliary sign systems

  • Australian Aboriginal sign languages (Warlpiri Sign Language etc)
  • Baby Sign – using signs to assist early language development in young children.
  • Baseball Sign – a method used in baseball and softball to communicate strategic plays without the opponent knowing
  • Contact Sign – a pidgin or contact language between a spoken language and a sign language, e.g. Pidgin Sign English (PSE).
  • Curwin Hand Signs – a technique which allows musical notes to be communicated through hand signs.
  • International Sign (previously known as Gestuno) – an auxiliary language used by deaf people in international settings.
  • Makaton – a system of signed communication used by and with people who have speech, language or learning difficulties.
  • Military hand signals – a standardised system of communicating commands and information silently.
  • Monastic sign language
  • Mudra – word-like gestures and poses uses in Hindu and Buddhist dance drama and religious iconography
  • Plains Indian Sign Language
  • Plateau Sign Language
  • Tic tac – a traditional British system of communicating betting odds at racecourses.

Signed modes of spoken languages

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

See also


  1. ^ 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.[1].
  2. ^ 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. Article online (PDF)
  3. ^ 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].
  4. ^ History of the Deaf and sign languages in Africa, published (December 25, 2006) on Kamei's website. In Japanese || ||.
  5. ^ Pamela Perniss, Roland Pfau, Markus Steinbach; Visible Variation. Walter de Gruyter, 2007. (p.ix)
  6. ^ European Union of the Deaf: Cyprus
  7. ^ Lanesman, S. & Meir, I. (2007). The sign language of Algerian immigrants in Israel. Paper presented at the workshop Cross-linguistic Research and International Cooperation in Sign Language Linguistics, Nijmegen.

External links

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