Brazilian Sign Language

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Brazilian Sign Language
Native toBrazil and Brazilian diaspora
RegionUrban areas
Native speakers
200,000 (2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3bzs
ELPLíngua Brasileira de Sinais

Brazilian Sign Language is the sign language used by deaf communities of urban Brazil. It is also known as Libras (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈlibɾas], from Língua Brasileira de Sinais [ˈlĩɡwa bɾaziˈlejɾa dʒi siˈnajs]) and variously abbreviated as LSB, LGB or LSCB (Brazilian Cities Sign Language).[3]

Recognition and status[edit]

Brazilian Sign Language 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 Brazilian Sign Language in education and government services.

Signwriting used on outside of school for deaf in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul

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


BSL 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]


Sutton SignWriting is the dominant writing system in Brazil.[6] A master's in linguistics dissertation titled "A arte de escrever em Libras" by Gabriela Otaviani Barbosa found that SignWriting is used in 18 Federal Universities and in 12 public schools in Brazil. The History of SignWriting in Brazil appeared on TV INES in 2017: "A Vida em Libras – SignWriting – Escrita de Sinais".

Historical efforts were commonly transcribed using Portuguese words, written in upper case, to stand for each equivalent BSL morpheme.[7]

Transcription of BSL signs using SignWriting has been in place since at least 1997 with the SignNet Project in Porto Alegre and Fernando Capovilla's dictionaries in São Paulo. The University of Santa Catarina at Florianopolis (UFSC) has required courses in SignWriting as the preferred form of LIBRAS transcription.

SignWriting is cited as being useful in the pedagogy of young children.

The Federal University of Santa Catarina has accepted a dissertation written in Brazilian Sign Language using Sutton SignWriting for a master's degree in linguistics. The dissertation "The Writing of Grammatical Non-Manual Expressions in Sentences in LIBRAS Using the SignWriting System" by João Paulo Ampessan states that "the data indicate the need for [non-manual expressions] usage in writing sign language".

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)[8] posits that Brazilian Sign Language 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brazilian Sign Language at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  2. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[1]
  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) Archived April 26, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ LIBRAS manual alphabet
  6. ^ Costa, Edivaldo da Silva (2018). "Tendências atuais da pesquisa em escrita de sinais no Brasil". Revista Diálogos (RevDia). 6 (1): 23–41. ISSN 2319-0825.
  7. ^ Paiva, Francisco Aulísio dos Santos; De Martino, José Mario; Barbosa, Plínio Almeida; Benetti, Ângelo; Silva, Ivani Rodrigues (2016). "Um sistema de transcrição para língua de sinais brasileira: o caso de um avatar". Revista do GEL. 13 (3): 13, 21–24. doi:10.21165/gel.v13i3.1440.
  8. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[2]


  • 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
  • de Souza, Guilherme Lourenco. "Verb agreement in Brazilian Sign Language: morphophonology, syntax & semantics." (2018). Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais: doctoral dissertation.
  • Lourenço, Guilherme. "Verb agreement in Brazilian Sign Language: Morphophonology, syntax & semantics." Sign Language & Linguistics 22, no. 2 (2019): 275-281.
  • 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]