Yugoslav Sign Language
Bosnian Sign Language
Croatian Sign Language
Macedonian Sign Language
Serbian Sign Language
Slovenian Sign Language
Native toBosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia
Native speakers
ca. 23,000 (2010–2014)[1]
French Sign
Language codes
ISO 639-3ysl – inclusive code
Individual code:
csq – Croatian SL

The deaf sign language of the nations of the former Yugoslavia, known variously as Croatian Sign Language (Hrvatski znakovni jezik, HZJ), Kosovar Sign Language, Serbian Sign Language, Bosnian Sign Language, Macedonian Sign Language, Slovenian Sign Language, or Yugoslav Sign Language (YSL), got its start when children were sent to schools for the deaf in Austro-Hungary in the early 19th century.[2] The first two local schools opened in 1840 in Slovenia and in 1885 in Croatia.[citation needed]

Dialectical distinctions remain between the language in the various countries, with separate (as well as unified) dictionaries being published. These varieties are reported to be mutually intelligible, but the actual amount of variation, and the degree to which the varieties should be considered one language or separate languages, has not been systematically assessed; nor is much known about the sign language situation in these Balkan states.[3]

A two-handed manual alphabet is in widespread use; a one-handed alphabet based on the American manual alphabet, though less commonly used, has official status.[2][where?]

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the deaf have the same language rights with sign language as the hearing do with oral language. Interpreters must be provided for deaf people dealing with government bodies, and government television broadcasts must be translated into sign language. A Commission for the Sign Language is composed of members representing education, linguistics/pedagogy, and the three constituent nations of Bosnia.[4] By law, Croatian Radiotelevision is to promote the translation of programs into sign language.[5]


  1. ^ Yugoslav Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Croatian SL at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b van Cleve, John V. (1987). Gallaudet encyclopedia of Deaf people and deafness. Vol. 3. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. pp. 116–118.
  3. ^ Bickford, J. Albert (2005). "The Signed Languages of Eastern Europe" (PDF). pp. 15–16.
  4. ^ "The right to sign language in Bosnia and Herzegovina" (PDF). Ministry of Justice (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
  5. ^ "Zakon o Hrvatskoj Radioteleviziji". Archived from the original on 2018-02-03. Retrieved 2011-02-25.