Brazilian Sign Language

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"Libras" redirects here. For other uses, see Libra (disambiguation).
Brazilian Sign Language
Native to Brazil and Brazilian diaspora
Region Urban areas
Native speakers
3 million  (no date)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bzs
Glottolog braz1236[2]

Brazilian Sign Language, also known as "Libras" (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈlibɾɐs], from "ngua Brasileira de Sinais" [ˈlĩɡwɐ bɾɐziˈlejɾɐ dʒi siˈnajs]) and previously known as LSB, LGB or LSCB (Brazilian Cities Sign Language),[3] is the sign language used by deaf communities of urban Brazil, or the area concentrating 85–90% of its population.

Recognition and status[edit]

Libras is well-established; several dictionaries, instructional videos and a number of articles on the linguistic features of the language have been published. It has dialects across Brazil reflecting regional and sociocultural differences.

A strong sign language law was passed by the National Congress of Brazil on April 24, 2002, and (in 2005) is in the process of being implemented.[4] The law mandates the use of Libras in education and government services.

Educational approaches has evolved from oralism to Total Communication and bilingualism.


Libras fingerspelling uses a one-handed manual alphabet similar to that used by the French Sign Language family.[5]

There are 44 distinct handshapes used in the language.[3]

Deaf and sign language organizations[edit]

The most important deaf organization is FENEIS, the Federação Nacional de Educação e Integração dos Surdos (National Federation of Deaf Education and Integration). There are a number of regional organizations in Curitiba, Caxias do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul.


Wittmann (1991)[6] posits that LIBRAS is a language isolate (a 'prototype' sign language), though one developed through stimulus diffusion from an existing sign language, likely Portuguese Sign Language and/or French Sign Language.

Nevertheless, autochthonous sign languages flourished among Brazil's Indigenous peoples (that perhaps influenced Libras to some degree), and it shows similarities with members of the French Sign Language family.

Language Codes[edit]

bzs is a language code for the Brazilian Sign Language, defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-3).[7]

Interestingly, there is no ISO code for spoken or written Brazilian Portuguese, as the relevance of its distinctiveness to Portuguese is disputed.

pt is a language code for Portuguese, defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2).

pt-BR is a language code for the Brazilian Portuguese, defined by Internet standards (see IETF language tag).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brazilian Sign Language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Brazilian Sign Language". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b Ferreira-Brito, Lucinda and Langevin, Rémi (1994), The Sublexical Structure of a Sign Language, Mathématiques, Informatique et Sciences Humaines 32:125, 1994, pp. 17–40
  4. ^ LIBRAS law (in Portuguese)
  5. ^ LIBRAS manual alphabet
  6. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[1]
  7. ^ Languages of Brazil - Ethnologue (ISO-3 codes)


  • Gama, Flausine José da Costa: Iconographia dos Signaes dos Surdos-Mudos.[Iconography of Signs for the Deaf-Mute]. Rio de Janeiro : E.+H.Laemmert 1875
  • Capovilla, F. C., and W. D. Raphael, eds. 2001. Dicionário enciclopédico ilustrado trilíngüe da Língua de Sinais Brasileira: Vols. 1 (Sinais de A a L) & 2 (Sinais de M a Z). [Trilingual illustrated encyclopedic dictionary of Brazilian Sign Language, Vols. 1 and 2] São Paulo: Edusp, FAPESP, Fundação Vitae, Feneis, Brasil Telecom. Volume One: ISBN 85-314-0600-5 Volume Two: ISBN 85-314-0603-X
  • Xavier, André Nogueira and Sherman Wilcox. 2014. Necessity and possibility modals in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras). Linguistic Typology 18(3): 449 – 488.

External links[edit]