Francophone African Sign Language

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Francophone African Sign Language
Native to Ivory Coast, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, and other areas of Francophone West and Central Africa
Native speakers
12,500 in Benin, 530 in Guinea, unknown numbers elsewhere  (2008)[1]
French Sign
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Individual code:
gus – Guinean Sign Language
Glottolog None
guin1250  (Guinean Sign Language)[2]
Varieties of ASL are used throughout West and Central Africa

Francophone African Sign Language (Langue des Signes d'Afrique Francophone, or LSAF) is the variety, or varieties, of American Sign Language (ASL) used in several francophone countries of Africa. Education for the Deaf in these countries is based on ASL and written French; there is therefore a French influence on the language of the classroom.[3]

With the exception of Algerian Sign Language, the sign languages of francophone Africa are unrelated to French Sign Language, except indirectly through their derivation from ASL. This is because most schools for the deaf in the region were founded by the American missionary Andrew Foster or by his students, starting in 1974. Chadian Sign Language may be closest to Nigerian Sign Language. (A few countries have languages unrelated to either: Madagascar Sign Language derives from Norwegian SL, and Tunisian Sign Language is apparently a language isolate.)


As in other African derivations of ASL, the language has been affected by local gestures and conventions. This is especially true of taboo topics such as sex (Dalle 1996).

As an example of the French influence on francophone ASL, the word for 'she' is made by pointing with at L-shaped hand, rather than with a simple index finger, because the name of the letter el is homonymous with elle ('she') in French. It is not clear to what extent such influence continues outside the classroom.


Francophone African countries which use ASL as the language of Deaf instruction are:

  • Senegal
  • Mauritania
  • Mali
  • Guinea
  • Ivory Coast
  • Burkina Faso
  • Togo
  • Benin
  • Niger
  • Chad (from Nigeria)
  • Central African Republic
  • Gabon
  • Republic of Congo (Brazzaville; from Nigeria)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa; FSL is also used)
  • Burundi
  • Morocco

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  • Kamei, Nobutaka ed. 2008. Langue des Signes d'Afrique Francophone (LSAF) (DVD). Fuchu: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
  • Tamomo, Serge. 1994. Le langage des signes du sourd Africain Francophone. Cotonou, Bénin: PEFISS.


  1. ^ ASL at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Guinean Sign Language". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Francophone African Sign Language - AASL". Retrieved 2012-05-21.