Argentine Sign Language
Native toArgentina
Signers60,000 (2017)[1]
unclassified
Language codes
ISO 639-3aed
Glottologarge1236
ELPArgentine Sign Language

Argentine Sign Language (Spanish: Lengua de signos argentina; LSA) is used in Argentina. Deaf people attend separate schools, and use local sign languages out of class. A manual alphabet for spelling Spanish has been developed.

Recognition

Argentine Sign Language (LSA) was officially recognized by the government of Argentina in 2023,[2][3] marking a significant milestone in the acknowledgment of linguistic diversity and the rights of the Deaf community within the country. This recognition underscores the importance of LSA as a distinct and integral language for communication among the Deaf population of Argentina.

The formal recognition of LSA highlights its unique linguistic features and its crucial role in facilitating effective communication and preserving cultural identity among Deaf individuals. It signifies the government's commitment to promoting inclusivity and accessibility for all citizens, irrespective of their hearing abilities.

Following its recognition, LSA has garnered increased attention within educational spheres, prompting initiatives to integrate it into school curricula and provide comprehensive resources for its teaching and learning. This includes the development of educational materials, such as dictionaries and instructional videos, tailored to both Deaf individuals and those interested in acquiring LSA as a second language.

Moreover, the recognition of LSA carries legal and administrative implications, ensuring that Deaf individuals have the right to access essential services, including healthcare and legal assistance, in their preferred mode of communication. It mandates the provision of interpreters and accommodations across various sectors to guarantee effective communication and equitable access to information for Deaf individuals.

The official recognition of Argentine Sign Language aligns with global efforts to uphold linguistic diversity and protect the rights of linguistic minority communities. It serves as a testament to the resilience and advocacy of the Deaf community in Argentina, affirming their rightful place in society and their invaluable contributions to the country's cultural landscape.

Rioplatense Spanish and Argentine Sign Language

In Argentina, Rioplatense Spanish, a regional variant of the Spanish language, coexists alongside Argentine Sign Language (LSA), reflecting the linguistic diversity present within the country. Rioplatense Spanish is primarily spoken by the hearing population, while LSA serves as the primary mode of communication for the Deaf community.

Rioplatense Spanish is characterized by its distinctive phonological, lexical, and syntactical features, which distinguish it from other varieties of Spanish spoken in different regions of the Spanish-speaking world. This variant has been shaped by historical, cultural, and social factors, including immigration patterns, indigenous influences, and interactions with neighboring countries.

On the other hand, Argentine Sign Language (LSA) is a visual-gestural language used by Deaf individuals and members of the Deaf community in Argentina. LSA has its own grammar, vocabulary, and syntax, separate from spoken languages like Spanish. It is transmitted visually through handshapes, facial expressions, and body movements, making it a unique and rich mode of communication for Deaf individuals.

Despite the differences in modality, Rioplatense Spanish and LSA interact and influence each other in various contexts, reflecting the multicultural and multilingual nature of Argentine society. Bilingualism, or even multilingualism, is not uncommon among Deaf individuals in Argentina, who may navigate between LSA and Spanish depending on the situation and the communication needs of the moment.

Efforts to promote linguistic and cultural inclusivity have led to increased recognition and appreciation of both Rioplatense Spanish and LSA within Argentine society. Educational programs, cultural initiatives, and advocacy efforts aim to foster understanding and respect for linguistic diversity, ensuring that both spoken and signed languages are valued and supported in Argentina.

Manual Alphabet and Fingerspelling

In Argentine Sign Language (LSA), the manual alphabet, also known as fingerspelling, serves as a crucial component for spelling out words and conveying specific letters of the alphabet manually through handshapes. This system allows Deaf individuals to represent words, names, or concepts for which there are no standard signs, or to clarify spelling in situations where precision is paramount.

The manual alphabet in LSA consists of a set of handshapes representing each letter of the Spanish alphabet. Each handshape corresponds to a specific letter, and the fingerspelling process involves sequentially forming these handshapes to spell out the desired word or message. The clarity and accuracy of fingerspelling in LSA rely heavily on precise hand movements, finger positions, and facial expressions to ensure effective communication.

Fingerspelling is commonly used in situations where direct translation from Spanish to LSA is not feasible, such as proper nouns, technical terms, or newly introduced concepts. Additionally, fingerspelling may be employed for emphasis, clarification, or to reinforce understanding within a conversation or educational context.

Proficiency in fingerspelling is an essential skill for both Deaf individuals and those interacting with the Deaf community, as it enhances communication flexibility and comprehension in diverse linguistic settings. Training in fingerspelling is often incorporated into LSA educational programs and language-learning initiatives to promote linguistic proficiency and fluency among users of LSA.

The manual alphabet and fingerspelling in LSA contribute to the richness and versatility of the language, enabling Deaf individuals to express themselves fully and participate actively in various social, educational, and professional domains. Its incorporation into LSA underscores the language's adaptability and effectiveness as a means of communication for the Deaf community in Argentina.

Grammar

Argentine Sign Language (LSA) exhibits a distinct grammatical structure that differs from spoken languages such as Spanish. Notably, LSA lacks the concept of "Sujeto táctico" (tactile subject), a grammatical feature found in Spanish where the subject is inferred from the verb conjugation without explicit expression. In LSA, subjects are typically expressed explicitly through manual signs, facial expressions, and body movements.

LSA grammar is primarily visual-spatial and relies on a combination of handshapes, movements, and non-manual markers to convey meaning. The language employs a topic-comment structure, where the topic is established first, followed by additional information or commentary. Non-manual markers, such as facial expressions and head movements, play a crucial role in indicating grammatical aspects such as negation, question formation, and emphasis.

Verb agreement in LSA is marked through movement, location, and directionality, with verbs inflecting to indicate aspects such as tense, aspect, and mood. Adjectives and adverbs are typically placed before the noun or verb they modify, and word order can vary depending on contextual factors and emphasis.

LSA also features spatial grammar, where locations and movements in signing space are used to convey spatial relationships, pronouns, and verb arguments. Spatial referencing is dynamic and can change based on discourse context and the perspective of the signer.

Despite its differences from spoken languages, LSA exhibits linguistic complexity and richness, allowing for nuanced expression and communication within the Deaf community in Argentina. As with any language, the grammar of LSA continues to evolve and adapt to the needs and usage patterns of its speakers, reflecting the dynamic nature of human language.

Syntax

The unmarked word order in LSA is subject-object-verb, akin to languages such as Turkish, Japanese, and Latin, but divergent from Spanish.

subject object verb
[PRON]2 TRABAJAR BUSCAR-
"you" "work" "search"
You are looking for a job.
Subject Object Verb
[PRON]1 PAN 1DAR-2[cl:Bread]
"I" "bread" "I-give-you(-something-bread-shaped)"
I give you (the) bread.

When an indirect object is present in the sentence, it precedes the direct object.

Subject indirect object direct object verb
[PRON]1 [POSS]1 PADRE3 PAN 1DAR-3[cl:Pan]
"I" "my father" "bread" "I-give-him(-something-bread-shaped)"
I give my father (the) bread.

In sentences involving chains of verbs, auxiliary verbs typically appear after the main verb, contrary to English word order.

Subject object "main verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]2 TRABAJAR BUSCAR- DEBER-
"you" "work" "search" "must"
You have to look for a job.
Subject "main verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]1 ANDAR-EN BICICLETA- NO-PODER
"I" "ride-a-bike" "cannot"
I can't ride a bike.
Subject "main verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]1 IR- PROBAR-
"I" "come" "try"
I'll try to come.
Subject Object "main verb" "Modal verb"
[PRON]1 APARTMENT CLEAN- NOT-WANT-
"I" "apartment" "clean" "can't-be-bothered"
I can't be bothered cleaning the apartment.

The Personal Agreement Marker (abbreviated as "PAM"), resembling the sign for "person" and sometimes accompanied by the mouthing "auf" ("on"), serves to indicate the location in signing space of animate objects when the verb in the sentence does not perform this function. It essentially fulfills the role of object pronouns, although it behaves more akin to an auxiliary verb, inflecting for person where the main verb does not. While there exists notable variation, particularly among dialects, it typically appears in positions similar to auxiliaries, following the verb rather than occupying the object slot. Similarly, the benefactive marker (labeled as "BEM") is positioned in a similar manner.

Subject "main verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]1 LOVE- [PAM]2
"I" "love" "you"
I love you.
Subject Object "main verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]1 DOCTOR3 AMAR- [PAM]3
"I" "doctor" "love" "him/her"
I love the doctor.
Subject object "main verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]1 LIBRO COMPAR- [BEM]2
"I" "book" "buy" "for-you"
I bought a book for you.

Temporal expressions (tomorrow, next week) typically precede the sentence (as a discourse topic).

Time Subject Indirect object Direct object Verb
YESTERDAY MUJER3 [POSS]1 HERMANA4 LIBRO 3DAR-4[cl:Libro]
"yesterday" "woman" "my sister" "book" "she-give-her(-something-book-shaped)"
Yesterday a/the woman gave my sister a/the book.

Phrases specifying location often commence at the beginning of the sentence (after time information).

Time Location Subject Object Verb
AYER UNIVERSIDAD [LOK]A [PRON]1 HOMBRE AGRADABLE CONOCER
"yesterday" "university there" "I" "man nice" "meet"
I met a nice man at the university yesterday.

This adheres to the figure-ground principle, where smaller, more mobile referents (figures) typically follow larger, less mobile referents (ground).

Ground Figure Verb
BOSQUE UNA CASA OBJETO-con-una[SITUADO]
"forest" "house" "house-shaped-object-is-situated-there"
There is a house in the forest.

Sentence adverbs frequently appear at the beginning of the sentence.

Sentence adverb Subject Object Verb
ESPERANZA [PRON]3 PERRO COMPRA-
"hope" "s/he" "dog" "buy"
Hopefully s/he'll buy a dog.

However, adverbs modifying the verb but which cannot be expressed non-manually follow the verb as an extra clause.

Subject Verb Adverbial clause
[POSS]1 JEFE BAILAR-, LINDO
"my boss" "dance" "beautiful"
My boss dances beautifully. / My boss dances and it's beautiful.

Wh-words (interrogatives) typically occur at the end of the sentence after the verb.

Subject "main verb" "auxiliary" Wh
[PRON]2 BESTELL- WÜNSCH- WAS
"you" "order" "desire" "what"
What would you like to order?
Subject object "main verb" "auxiliary" Wh
[PRON]2 D-G-S APRENDER DESEAR- POR QUÉ
"you" "DGS" "learn" "desire" "why"
Why do you want to learn LSA?
Subject Object "main verb" "auxiliary" Wh
[PRON]2 CIENCIAS SOCIALES ESTUDIAR- COMENZAR- CUANDO
"du" "social sciences" "study-at-university" "begin" "when"
How long have you been studying social sciences at university?

Some signs with a negative meaning tend to occur at the end of the sentence.

Subject Object Verb Negation
[PRON]1 [POSS]2 AMAR(R) CONOCER- AÚN-NO
"ich" "your partner" "meet" "not-yet"
I haven't met your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/husband/wife yet.
Subject "full verb" "auxiliary" negation
[PRON]1 COMER- DESEAR- NADA
"I" "eat" "desire" "nothing"
I don't want to eat anything (at all).

However, if the negation is not emphasized, it can also appear in the expected position.

Subject object "full verb" "auxiliary"
[PRON]1 NADA COMER- DESEAR-
"I" "nothing" "eat" "desire"
I don't want to eat anything.

Determiners (articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, relative pronouns) follow the noun.

Noun Determiner
LIBRO [DEM]A
"book" "this"
this book

Their function is to establish the location of referents within the signing space. If this is indicated instead by directional verbs, determiners can always be omitted, provided they are not required for other reasons (such as showing possession, pluralization, etc.). There is no distinction between definite and indefinite articles.

Attributive adjectives follow immediately after the noun.

Nomen Adjektiv
LIBRO NUEVO
"book" "new"
a/the new book

The copula to be does not exist in LSA. Predicative adjectives are generally separated from the noun by a determiner.

Noun Determiner Adjective
LIBRO [DEM]A NUEVO
"book" "this" "new"
This book is new.

Comparing the preceding sentence to the following noun phrase, in which the determiner follows the adjective, demonstrates a different syntactic structure.

Noun Adjective Determiner
LIBRO NUEVO [DEM]A
"book" "new" "this"
this new book

Possessive adjectives are positioned between the possessor and the possession.

Besitzer Possessiv Besitz
HOMBRE3 [POSS]3 AUTO
"man" "his" "car"
the man's car

Here is an illustration of a more extended yet still straightforward, unmarked sentence.

Time Location Subject Indirect object Direct object "full verb" "auxiliary" Wh
LA SEMANA PASADA [POSS]1 PADRE3 [POSS]3 CASA [LOK]A [PRON]2 [POSS]1 MADRE4 DINERO/PLATA 2DAR-4 DESEAR- POR QUÉ
"last-week" "my father his house there" "you" "my mother" "money" "you-give-her" "desire" "why"
Why did you want to give my mother money at my father's house last week?

Sections of the sentence that deviate from their typical unmarked position are accompanied by non-manual marking.

Elements of the sentence (excluding verbs) can be topicalized by relocating them to the beginning of the sentence and marking them with raised eyebrows.

Topicalized object Subject Verb
raised eyebrows head shake
MUJER [DEM]A [PRON]1 POSIBLE-
"woman that" "I" "don't-like"
I don't like that woman. / That woman, I don't like.

Often, a topic doesn't fulfill any other function in the sentence. In such cases, it serves to restrict the scope of the sentence. Contrast the following three sentences.

Subject Object Verb
[PRON]1 ITALIA ADORO-
"I" "Italy" "adore"
I love Italy.
Topic Subject Object Verb
raised eyebrows
PAÍS [PRON]1 ITALIA ADORO-
"country" "I" "Italy" "adore"
My favourite country is Italy.
Topic Subject Object Verb
raised eyebrows
COMIDA [PRON]1 ITALIA ADORO-
"food" "I" "Italy" "adore"
My favourite food is Italian.

References

  1. ^ Argentine Sign Language at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "Se aprobó la ley de Reconocimiento de la Lengua de Señas Argentina". FENASCOL Digital (in Spanish). 2023-04-17. Retrieved 2024-03-31.
  3. ^ VOTACIÓN RECONOCIMIENTO LENGUA DE SEÑAS - SESIÓN 13-04-23. Retrieved 2024-03-31 – via www.youtube.com.