Salvadoran Sign Language

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Salvadoran Sign Language
Native to El Salvador
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 esn
Glottolog salv1237[1]

Salvadoran Sign language is a language used by the deaf community in El Salvador. Its main purpose is to provide education. There are three distinct forms of sign language. American Sign Language was brought over to El Salvador from the United States by missionaries who set up small communal schools for the deaf. The government has also created a school for the deaf, teaching by means of their own modified Salvadoran Sign Language. The third type of sign language used is a combination of American Sign Language and Salvadoran Sign language. Most deaf understand and rely upon both. Their own unique Salvidoran Sign language is based on their language and is most useful in regular encounters; however, American Sign Language is often relied on within education due to the larger and more specific vocabulary. This is the reason that the deaf community within El Salvador sometimes relies upon both ASL and SSL in a combined form.

According to sources, El Salvador has fewer than 500,000 deaf. [2][need quotation to verify] reports that El Salvador lacks a formal sign language system; however, that is because of the acceptance of the three types of sign language: ASL, SSL, and a combined form of both. Several individual deaf people have traveled to the United States and brought back ASL, which blended into the national sign language. This also created a distance between the deaf people who had education and could use ASL and English and those who only knew Sal Sign and had limited Spanish reading and writing abilities. Though it does create tension within communication at times, it has proven to be most effective in educating deaf students, while maintaining their cultural individuality.


There is a formal school for the deaf run by the government. About every five years, government-hired teachers make their rounds to all the villages and small communities offering to care for and educate the deaf children. The parents may choose to not send their deaf children away, but then the children risk receiving little to no education.

The deaf in El Salvador can always find a way to communicate with each other using signs, ASL, Sal Sign, or homemade gestures because it is their natural mode of communication.


Wittmann (1991)[3] posits that SSL is a language isolate (a 'prototype' sign language), though one developed through stimulus diffusion from an existing sign language, likely French Sign Language.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Salvadoran Sign Language". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[1]