Hong Kong Sign Language

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Hong Kong Sign Language
Native to Hong Kong
Native speakers
20,000  (2007)[1]
Chinese Sign Language
  • Shanghai Sign
    • Hong Kong Sign Language
Macau Sign
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hks
Glottolog hong1241[2]

Hong Kong Sign Language (香港手語), or HKSL, is the deaf sign language of Hong Kong. It derived from the southern dialect of Chinese Sign Language, but is now an independent language.[3] Macau Sign Language is a dialect.[citation needed]


The origin of HKSL can be traced back to around 1949, when a group of 20 odd deaf people who moved from Shanghai and Nanjing to Hong Kong started some tutorial classes to teach the local deaf. Chinese sign language was the main medium of instruction, which led to the circulation of CSL among the local deaf community, who adapted the language by developing their own signs with new ideas, concepts or things they encounter in their lives. This led to a further development of the vocabulary of Hong Kong Sign Language. A few decades ago, local deaf people seldom interacted with their overseas counterparts, thus the development of Hong Kong sign language was largely associated with that of Chinese sign language. However, as time passed, more and more Hong Kong deaf people went abroad for travel, study or other social purposes, bringing back with them foreign signs when they returned. Some of these signs, such as the American manual alphabet, were borrowed and adopted this way.[4]


There are 40 to 50 basic hand-shapes in Hong Kong sign language.[citation needed]

Sometimes, signers may speak or mouth the word while signing. For example, when signing the name of a place like Central, the signer may mouth the Cantonese name for "Central" while signing. This practice may be related to the signers' past training in speech and lip-reading, but sometimes mouthing bears no relation to the spoken language, and is an inherent part of the sign.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Hong Kong Sign Language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Hong Kong Sign Language". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Fischer, S.; Gong, Q. (2010). "Variation in East Asian sign language structures". In Brentari, Diane. Sign Languages. p. 499. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511712203.023. ISBN 9780511712203.
  4. ^ Hong Kong Sign Language (Elementary),(2005). Eds. Chan Yuk-Kuen, Lai Wing-sze, Siu Wai-yan Rebecca. Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Society for the Deaf.