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, although sometimes under different names (Croatian and Serbian, Indian and Pakistani). Deaf sign languages also arise outside 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 :

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

Contemporary deaf 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.
Berbey Sign Language family Dogon region, Mali [1]
Bouakako Sign Language village Ivory Coast
Bura Sign Language village in Nigeria
Burkina Sign Language local[10] Ouagadougou (Langue des Signes Mossi)
Chadian Sign Language ASL:Nigerian?
Douentza Sign Language local? village? Dogon region, Mali
Eritrean Sign Language creole
Eswatini Sign Language Irish, British, & local
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)
Lesotho Sign Language BANZL
Libyan Sign Language Arab?
Malagasy Sign Language French:Danish:Norwegian (or "Madagascan Sign Language") May be a dialect of Norwegian SL
Maroua Sign Language local Cameroon
Mauritian Sign Language isolate
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
Sao Tome and Principe Sign Language rural
Sierra Leonean Sign Language ASL
Somali Sign Language Kenyan SL
South African Sign Language Irish & 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 United States and Canada ASL is also officially recognized as a language in Canada due to the passage of Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Black American Sign Language is a dialect of ASL.
Argentine Sign Language Spain and Italy[citation needed] (Lengua de Señas Argentina – LSA)
Bay Islands Sign Language village Honduras. Deaf-blind. French Harbour Sign Language
Bolivian Sign Language ASL/Andean "Lenguaje de Señas Bolivianas" (LSB)
Brazilian Sign Language French Libras (Lingua Brasileira de Sinais)[11]
Recognized legally as a means of communication among the Brazilian Deaf community.[12]
Bribri Sign Language village?
Brunca Sign Language village?
Carhuahuaran Sign Language family Peru
Chatino Sign Language family
Chilean Sign Language French? Lenguaje de Señas Chileno (LSCH)
Colombian Sign Language Andean (CSN) / Lengua de Señas Colombiana (LSC)
Costa Rican Sign Language at least four languages in Costa Rica (Woodward 1991)
Old Costa Rican Sign Language
Cuban Sign Language
Dominican Sign Language ASL
Ecuadorian Sign Language Andean
Greenlandic Sign Language Danish "Kalaallisut Ussersuutit" (DTS)
Guatemalan Sign Language
Guyanese Sign Language ?
Haitian Sign Language ASL
Honduras Sign Language Mexican? "Lengua de señas hondureña" (LESHO)
Inmaculada Sign Language Peruvian Lima, Peru. Inmaculada is a school for the deaf. (see ref under Sivia SL)
Inuit Sign Language village "Inuit Uqausiqatigiit Uukturausiq Uqajuittunut (General Inuit Sign Language for deaf)"[citation needed] also known as Tikuraq (ᑎᑯᕋᖅ)
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)
Macushi Sign Language ? Brazil [no data]
Marajo Sign Language home sign? Brazil
Maritime Sign Language British
Maxakali Sign Language home sign? if not home sign, at least a young language. Brazil
Mayan Sign Language village
Mexican Sign Language French "Lengua de señas mexicana" (LSM)
Navajo Sign Language
Nicaraguan Sign Language local "Idioma de señas nicaragüense" (ISN)
Old Cayman Sign Language village gave rise to Providence Island SL?
Panamanian Sign Language ASL, some Salvadoran influence "Lengua de señas panameñas"
Paraguayan Sign Language related to Uruguayan, Old-French Sign Language "Lengua de Señas Paraguaya" (LSPy)
Papiu Yanomama Sign Language ? Brazil [no data]
Peruvian Sign Language Andean[13] "Lengua de señas peruana"
Plains Sign Language historically a trade pidgin distinct from national norms national forms maintained by some Plains nations
Puerto Rican Sign Language ASL "Lengua de señas puertorriqueña"
Providence Island Sign Language village
Quebec Sign Language French-ASL mix "Langue des Signes Québécoise" (LSQ)
Salvadoran Sign Language isolate
Sivia Sign Language village Peru
South Rupununi Sign Language village? Guyana
Terena Sign Language village Brazil
Trinidad and Tobago Sign Language isolate? ASL taught in schools; most deaf bilingual
Uruguayan Sign Language Old French Sign Language "Lengua de Señas Uruguaya"
Ka'apor Sign Language village (a.k.a. Urubu Sign Language, although this name is pejorative)
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 ASL may be two languages
Cambodian Sign Language = mixed LSF, BSL, ASL, various dialects within
Chinese Sign Language Chinese "中國手語" (ZGS)
Enga Sign Language village PNG
Filipino Sign Language mixed ASL, various dialects (FSL) or Philippine Sign Language (Filipino: Wikang pasenyas ng mga Pilipino).
Ghandruk Sign Language village (Nepal)
Hawaiʻi Sign Language HSL Indigenous unique sign language, Hoailona ʻŌlelo o Hawaiʻi[14][15][16][17]
Hong Kong Sign Language Shanghai Sign Language "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)
Kailge Sign Language village, perhaps related to SSSL PNG
Kata Kolok village (a.k.a. Bali Sign Language, Benkala Sign Language)
Laotian Sign Language (related to Vietnamese languages; may be more than one SL)
Korean Sign Language (KSDSL) Japanese "한국수어 (or 한국수화)" / "Hanguk Soo-hwa"

Korean standard sign language – manually coded spoken Korean

Macau Sign Language Shanghai Sign Language "澳門手語" (MSL). Derives from the southern dialect of CSL.
Malaysian Sign Language ASL "Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia" (BIM)
Maunabudhuk–Bodhe Sign Language village Nepal
Mehek Sign Language home sign? incipient? PNG
Miyakubo Sign Language village Japan
Mongolian Sign Language ? "Монгол дохионы хэл"
Mount Avejaha Sign Language village PNG
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)
Rennellese Sign Language home sign, not a full language (Solomon Islands)
Rossel Island Sign Language village PNG
Samoan Sign Language Auslan
Selangor Sign Language ASL? (Malaysia)
Sinasina Sign Language village? PNG, not clear if developed
Singapore Sign Language French A blend of ASL, Auslan, BSL, SEE2, SSL and locally-developed signs.
Solomon Islands Sign Language
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)
Wanib Sign Language village PNG
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
Azerbaijani Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Azərbaycan işarət dili" (AİD)
Austrian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Österreichische Gebärdensprache" (ÖGS)
British Sign Language British (BSL)
Bulgarian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Russian
Catalan Sign Language Catalan (or "Catalonian Sign Language") "Llengua de Signes Catalana" (LSC)
Croatian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Yugoslav (Croslan) "Hrvatski Znakovni Jezik" (HZJ)[18]
Czech Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian "Český znakový jazyk" (ČZJ)
Cypriot Sign Language ASL×GSL "Κυπριακή Νοηματική Γλώσσα" (CSL) [19]
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 Belgian "Vlaamse Gebarentaal" (VGT)
French Sign Language "Langues des Signes Française" (LSF)
Georgian Sign Language ? [2]
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"
Macedonian Sign Language French:Austro-Hungarian:Yugoslav 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 Old-French, 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" (SZJ)
Spanish Sign Language isolate "Lengua de signos española" (LSE)
Swedish Sign Language Swedish "Svenskt teckenspråk" (STS)
Swiss-French Sign Language French? "Langage Gestuelle"
Swiss-German Sign Language French? "Deutschschweizer Gebärdensprache" (DSGS)
Swiss-Italian Sign Language French?
Turkish Sign Language Isolate "Türk İşaret Dili" (TİD)
Ukrainian Sign Language French "Українська жестова мова (УЖМ)"
Valencian Sign Language "Llengua de Signes en la Comunitat Valenciana" (LSCV)
Walloon Sign Language 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 Israel
Central Taurus Sign Language village Turkey
Egyptian Sign Language Arab
Emirati Sign Language Arab
Ghardaia Sign Language village (Algerian Jewish Sign Language) deaf & hearing, Algeria → Israel
Iraqi Sign Language Arab لغة الاشارة العراقية Perhaps close to Levantine.
Israeli Sign Language Large lexical base from DGS שפת סימנים ישראלית (שס"י SHaSI)
Jordanian Sign Language Arab, Levantine Lughat il-Ishaarah il-Urduniah / لغة الاشارة الأردنية (LIU)
Kafr Qasem Sign Language Arab, village Kafr Qasim Israel
Kurdish Sign Language local ZHK
Kuwaiti Sign Language Arab لغة الاشارة الكويتية
Lebanese Sign Language Arab, Levantine Lughat al-Isharat al-Lubnaniya / لغة الإشارات اللبنانية
Mardin Sign Language family one extended family in Turkey[20]
Omani Sign Language Arab?
Palestinian Sign Language Arab, Levantine "لغة الاشارات الفلسطينية"
Persian Sign Language Persian زبان اشاره پارسى
Qahvehkhaneh Sign Language urban Tehran. Moribund.
Qatari Unified Sign Language Artificial/Arab Unclear what the Qatari deaf community actually uses. An artificial attempt to standardize all Arab sign languages has resulted in a variety used mainly by hearing Qatari interpreters.
Saudi Sign Language isolate "لغة الإشارة السعودية"
Seraglio Sign Language Ottoman court
Syrian Sign Language Arab, Levantine
Yemeni Sign Language Arab "لغة الإشارة اليمنية"

Historical deaf sign languages

Auxiliary sign languages

Manual modes of spoken languages

Further information: Manually coded language

Manual modes of spoken languages include:

Genetic classification of sign languages

Main article: Sign language § Classification

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.

BANZSL family tree
Old British Sign Language
(c. 1760–1900)
Maritime SL
(c. 1860–present)
Swedish SL family?
(c. 1800–present)
Papua NG SL
(c. 1990–present)
(c. 1860–present)
New Zealand SL
(c. 1870–present)
British SL
(c. 1900–present)
Northern Ireland SL
(c. 1920–present)
South African SL
(c. 1860–present)

Danish Sign Language family tree
French Sign
(c. 1760–present)
local/home sign
Danish Sign
(c. 1800–present)
Faroese Sign
(c. 1960–present)
Greenlandic Sign
(c. 1950–present)
Icelandic Sign
(c. 1910–present)
Norwegian Sign
(c. 1820–present)
Malagasy Sign
(c. 1950–present)

French Sign Language family tree
Old French Sign Language
(influenced by l'Epée c. 1760–89)
Belgian Sign Language
(c. 1790–2000)
Austro-Hungarian Sign Language
(c. 1780–1920)
American Sign Language
(c. 1820–present)
French Sign Language
(c. 1790–present)
French Belgian Sign Language
(c. 1970–present)
Flemish Sign Language
(c. 1970–present)
Dutch Sign Language
(c. 1790–present)
Italian Sign Language
(c. 1830–present)

Swedish Sign Language family tree
Swedish Sign Language
(c. 1800–present)
Portuguese Sign Language
(c. 1820–present)
Finnish Sign Language
(c. 1850–present)
Finland-Swedish Sign Language
(c. 1850–present)
Eritrean Sign Language
(c. 1950–present)

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; Parkhurst, Dianne (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 (PDF) (MA thesis), University of North Dakota.
  4. ^ Aldersson, Russell R; McEntee-Atalianis, Lisa J (2007), A Lexical Comparison of Icelandic Sign Language and Danish Sign Language, Studies in Applied Linguistics, Birkbeck.
  5. ^ For a classification, Wittmann, Henri (1991), "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement" [Linguistic classification of non vocally signed languages] (PDF), Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée (in French), 10 (1): 215–88.
  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). Aacore. December 25, 2006.
  9. ^ "Africa – Sign Language". LibGuides. Gallaudet University Library. 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  10. ^ Diane Brentari, Sign Languages, p 406
  11. ^ "Structure of ASL and Libras". University of Connecticut. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Lei 10.436 de 24 de abril de 2002". Brazilian Government. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  13. ^ Clark, Brenda Rae (December 2017). A Grammatical Sketch of Sivia Sign Language (PDF).
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Pamela Perniss, Roland Pfau, Markus Steinbach; Visible Variation. Walter de Gruyter, 2007. (p.ix)
  19. ^ EUD. "European Union of the deaf: Cyprus". Archived from the original on 2014-11-22. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  20. ^ "Mardin Sign Language". University of Central Lancashire. 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2012-05-21.