Estonian Sign Language
|Estonian Sign Language|
|(no estimate available)
4,500 users, deaf and hearing (1998)
influenced by Russian Sign
Estonian Sign Language (ESL, Estonian: Eesti viipekeel) is the national sign language of Estonia. In 1998 there were about 4,500 signers out of a deaf population of 2000 and a hearing-impaired population ten times that number. It is widespread in the cities of Tallinn and Pärnu among deaf ethnic Estonians; deaf Russian Estonians in Tallinn use Russian Sign Language, Russians outside Tallinn tend to use a Russian–Estonian Sign Language pidgin, or may be bilingual. In its formative stages, Estonian Sign Language was influenced by Russian and Finnish Sign Language; for example, the ESL sign for 'butterfly' developed from the Finnish sign for 'bird'. There are several dialects, the most archaic of which is the Pärnu variety.
Like other sign languages, ESL is influenced by the local oral language. For instance, some signs are based on fingerspelling the first letter of an Estonian word, as in the sign for restoran 'restaurant'.
Instruction for parents of deaf children is available in Tallinn. Teaching and research began in 1990 at Tartu University.
- SPREADTHESIGN - Estonian Sign Language alphabet photo glossary
- SPREADTHESIGN - Estonian Sign Language online video dictionary
- Dictionary at the Institute of the Estonian Language
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