Finland-Swedish Sign Language
finlandssvenskt teckenspråk (Swedish)
suomenruotsalainen viittomakieli (Finnish)
Native toFinland
Native speakers
150 deaf and 300 total (2014)[1]
Same figure of 150 cited in 2001[2]
? British Sign
Language codes
ISO 639-3fss
ELPFinnish-Swedish Sign Language

Finland-Swedish Sign Language (FinSSL; Swedish: Finlandssvenskt teckenspråk, Finnish: Suomenruotsalainen viittomakieli) is a moribund sign language in Finland. It is now used mainly in private settings by older adults who attended the only Swedish school for the deaf in Finland (in Porvoo, Swedish: Borgå), which was established in the mid-19th century by Carl Oscar Malm but closed in 1993.[3] However, it has recently been taught to some younger individuals.[4] Some 90 persons have it as their native language[5] and it is spoken by around 300 people in total.[6]


The first deaf school in Finland was founded in 1846 by Carl Oscar Malm, who was deaf himself. Since the closure of the deaf school in Borgå in 1993, the future of the language has been uncertain. Many families with deaf children have emigrated to Sweden because of the decision. The language is considered severely endangered according to UNESCO's criteria.[7][8]

Since 2015, Finland-Swedish and Finnish sign languages have been recognized as separate languages in Finnish legislation, as the new sign language act was adopted in the parliament. However, the scientific consensus has been since 2005 that the two sign languages are distinct.[9]

Differences from Finnish Sign

A speaker of Finland-Swedish Sign Language, recorded in Finland

Through contacts between Swedish deaf individuals and Finland-Swedish deaf individuals, the Finland-Swedish sign language has borrowed many words from Swedish sign language. Additionally, the visual phonology with facial expressions follows the sounds of the Swedish language. [10][11]

Swedish Sign Language family tree
Old British Sign Language?
(c. 1760–1900)
Swedish Sign Language
(c. 1800–present)
Portuguese Sign Language
(c. 1820–present)
Finnish Sign Language
(c. 1850–present)
Cape Verdian Sign Language
(c. 20th century–present)
Finland-Swedish Sign Language
(c. 1850–present)
Eritrean Sign Language
(c. 1950–present)
São Tomé and Príncipe Sign Language?
(c. 21st century–present)


  1. ^ Finland-Swedish Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Finland-Swedish Sign Language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013) Closed access icon
  3. ^ Jossfolk, Karl-Gustav (2017). "Carl Oskar Malm, en döv visionär" (PDF). SFV-kalendern 2017 (in Swedish). 131. Svenska folkskolans vänner. eISSN 2243-0261. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-07-23.
  4. ^ "Suomessa on uhanalainen kieli, jota käyttää enää 100 – koulussa Pohjanmaalla neljä suomenruotsalaisen viittomakielen taitajaa opettaa etänä lapsia ympäri maan". Yle Uutiset (in Finnish). 2021-06-17. Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  5. ^ Westerlund, Elin (3 August 2018). "Det finlandssvenska teckenspråket är utrotningshotad". Hufvudstadsbladet (in Swedish). pp. 8–11. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  6. ^ "De finlandssvenska teckenspråkiga – en osynlig minoritet". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  7. ^ "Det finlandssvenska teckenspråket hotat". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  8. ^ "Teckenspråk - Institutet för de inhemska språken". Kotimaisten kielten keskus (in Swedish). Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  9. ^ "Finlandssvenskt teckenspråk och språkets revitalisering". Finlands Dövas Förbund (in Swedish). Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  10. ^ "Suomen viittomakielet". Kotimaisten kielten keskus (in Finnish). Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  11. ^ "Suomen kaksi viittomakieltä". Kielikello (in Finnish). 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2024-04-29.

Further reading