Swiss-German Sign Language
Schweizerdeutsche Gebärdensprache
Langue des Signes Suisse-Allemande
Lingua dei Segni Svizzero-Tedesca
Germani Helvetti Language
Native toSwitzerland, Liechtenstein
Signers5,500 (2010)[1]
possibly French SL
  • Swiss-German Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3sgg
ELPSwiss-German Sign Language

Swiss-German Sign Language (German: Deutschschweizer Gebärdensprache, abbreviated DSGS) is the primary deaf sign language of the German-speaking part of Switzerland and of Liechtenstein. The language was established around 1828.[2] In 2011 it was estimated that 7,500 deaf and 13,000 hearing people use DSGS.[3] There are six dialects which developed in boarding schools for the deaf in Zürich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, and St. Gallen, as well as in Liechtenstein.[3]


In Switzerland, the language is called Gebärdensprache (sign language) if a distinction from other languages is not required. Some sources call it Natürliche Gebärden or Natürliche Gebärdensprache,[4] or Swiss Sign Language (Langage gestuel suisse).[2] The former just means 'natural sign', like those for "sleep" or "eat", in contrast to Abstrakte Gebärden 'conceptual sign',[5] and so the term is no longer used. Most English sources today uses the term German-Swiss Sign Language or Swiss-German Sign Language.[6][7]


Wittmann (1991) suspects that Swiss-German Sign Language may be part of the French Sign Language family, but it is not close and this is not easy to demonstrate.[2]

In Switzerland, the parentage of this language is still in research. Research on whether DSGS could be a derivative of the German Sign Language (DGS) is planned, but it was observed that DSGS signers are often more open to borrowing loan signs from LSF-SR, the French Sign Language dialect of the Suisse Romande, and less from the DGS.[3]


Two books have been published in SignWriting.[3]

Manual alphabet

The manual alphabet is similar to that of German Sign Language and American Sign Language, but with the following differences:


  1. ^ Swiss-German Sign Language at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[1]
  3. ^ a b c d Braem, Penny Boyes: Gebärdenspracharbeit in der Schweiz: Rückblick und Ausblick, Hamburg: Zeitschrift für Sprache und Kultur Gehörloser
  4. ^ Swiss-German Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  5. ^ Deutsche Hörbehinderten Selbsthilfe e.v.: Gebärdensprache
  6. ^ IANA: Language tag assignment for German Swiss Sign Language
  7. ^ Center for sign language research: Bibliography