Mexican Sign Language

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Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
lengua de señas mexicana
Native toMexico
Native speakers
130,000 (2010 projection)[1]
French Sign
  • Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
Language codes
ISO 639-3mfs
ELPMexican Sign Language
Video to promote better access to museums for the disabled with Mexican sign language

Mexican Sign Language ("lengua de señas mexicana" or LSM, also known by several other names), is the language of the Deaf community in Mexico. It is the primary language of 87,000 to 100,000 people (1986 T. C. Smith-Stark).

Geographic distribution and variation[edit]

Core signing populations are found in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, with a number of smaller cities containing signing communities. Some regional variation is found (80%-90% lexical similarity across the country according to Faurot et al. 2001).

Variation is high between age group and people of completely different religious backgrounds.

Relationship of LSM to Spanish[edit]

Public service announcement with Mexican sign language interpretation

LSM is quite distinct from Spanish, with completely different verb inflections, different discourse structure and preferences for word order, and little use of the verb to be. However, there is extensive use of initialised signs with one study finding 37% of a 100-word list are initialised, compared to 14% for American Sign Language (Faurot et al. 2001). The same authors suggest that the Deaf community's comprehension of the Spanish language is very low.

The term "Signed Spanish” refers to signing that uses LSM signs (lexicon) in a Spanish word order, with some representations of Spanish morphology. There is a group of suffixes that signed Spanish uses in a way similar to that of signed English, e.g. signed symbols for -dor and -ción (for nouns). Articles and pronouns are fingerspelled. Signed Spanish (or Pidgin Signed Spanish) is often used by interpreters and during public reading or song-leading. Signed Spanish is also used by some hard of hearing and late deafened people.

Relationship to other sign languages[edit]

LSM is widely believed by the deaf community to have derived from Old French Sign Language (OFSL), which combined with pre-existing local sign languages and home sign systems when deaf schools were first established in 1869. However, it is mutually unintelligible with American Sign Language, which emerged from OFSL 50 years earlier in the US, although the American manual alphabet is almost identical to the Mexican one. Spanish Sign Language used in Spain is different from Mexican Sign Language, though LSM may have been influenced by it.


In 2005, Mexican Sign Language was officially declared a "national language" in Mexico, along with Spanish and indigenous languages, to be used in the national education system for the deaf.[2] Before 2005, the major educational philosophy in the country focused on oralism (speech and lipreading) and with few schools that conducted classes in LSM.[3]

A 5-minute signed segment of a nightly television news program was broadcast in Signed Spanish in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s, discontinued in 1992, and resumed as a 2-minute summary of headlines in 1997.

Alternate names[edit]

  • Seña Español ("Spanish Sign" - LSM is widely known by this name among the Deaf Community in Mexico, although the language is unrelated to Spanish)
  • Lenguaje de señas mexicano
  • Lenguaje de las Manos
  • Lenguaje Manual Mexicano

See also[edit]


  • Faurot, Karla; Dellinger, Dianne; Eatough, Andy; Parkhurst, Steve (2001) [1992], The identity of Mexican sign as a language© 1999 Summer Institute of Linguistics.CS1 maint: postscript (link)[dead link]
  • Bickford, J. Albert (1991), "Lexical variation in Mexican Sign Language", Sign Language Studies (72): 72:241–276, JSTOR 26204555
  • Smith-Stark, Thomas C. (1986), "La lengua manual Mexicana", Unpublished Paper, Colegio de Mexico[better source needed]
  • Ley Federal para las Personas con Discapacidad.Section III. Article 23.CS1 maint: postscript (link)[full citation needed]

External links[edit]