Varieties of American Sign Language
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American Sign Language (ASL) developed in the United States and Canada, but has spread around the world. Local varieties have developed in many countries, but there is little research on which should be considered dialects of ASL (such as Bolivian Sign Language) and which have diverged to the point of being distinct languages (such as Malaysian Sign Language).
The following are sign language varieties of ASL in countries other than the USA and Canada, languages based on ASL with substratum influence from local sign languages, and mixed languages in which ASL is a component. Distinction follow political boundaries, which may not correspond to linguistic boundaries.
- 1 Bolivian Sign Language
- 2 Costa Rican Sign Language
- 3 Dominican Sign Language
- 4 Francophone African Sign Language
- 5 Ghanaian Sign Language
- 6 Greek Sign Language
- 7 Indonesian sign languages
- 8 Jamaican Sign Language
- 9 Malaysian Sign Language
- 10 Moroccan Sign Language
- 11 Nigerian Sign Language
- 12 Panamanian Sign Language
- 13 Philippine Sign Language
- 14 Puerto Rican Sign Language
- 15 Sierra Leonean Sign Language
- 16 Selangor Sign Language
- 17 Thai Sign Language
- 18 External links
- 19 Bibliography
- 20 References
Bolivian Sign Language
|Bolivian Sign Language|
|Lenguaje de Señas Bolivianas LSB|
Bolivian Sign Language (Lenguaje de Señas Bolivianas, LSB) is a dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) used predominantly by the Deaf in Bolivia.
In 1973, American Sign Language was brought to Bolivia by Eleanor and Lloyd Powlison, missionaries from the United States. An indigenous sign language (or perhaps sign languages) existed before the introduction and adoption of American Sign Language, though it is unknown how widespread or unified it was.
The first book of LSB was published in 1992, but more than 90% of the signs were from ASL. Due to research work in the 1990s and 2000s a lot of expressions in LSB were collected by Bolivian Deaf, and education materials for learning LSB or teaching in LSB were published. The dependence on words used in ASL was reduced, but the usage of ASL words still is over 70%.
Today LSB is used by more deaf Bolivians than the reported 400 in 1988 in the Ethnologue report, due to the introduction of bilingual education (LSB as primary language and Spanish as secondary language) originally in Riberalta and its adoption to other schools in Bolivia with the support of the Education Ministry of Bolivia and the growing social exchange of the Deaf.
Costa Rican Sign Language
|Costa Rican Sign Language|
|New Costa Rican Sign Language|
|Native to||Costa Rica|
Costa Rican Sign Language, also known New Costa Rican Sign Language or Modern Costa Rican Sign Language, is the national sign language of Costa Rica's Deaf community. It is used primarily by people born after 1960, and is about 60% cognate with American Sign Language (Woodward 1991, 1992). It is unrelated to two known village sign languages of Costa Rica, Bribri Sign Language and Brunca Sign Language.
Dominican Sign Language
|Dominican Sign Language|
|Native to||Dominican Republic|
Dominican Sign Language is a local variant of American Sign Language used in the Dominican Republic. Many deaf Dominicans use home sign, and are not fluent in Dominican Sign Language.
Francophone African Sign Language
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|Francophone African Sign Language|
|Native to||Ivory Coast, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, and other areas of Francophone West and Central Africa|
|12,500 in Benin, 530 in Guinea, unknown numbers elsewhere (2008)|
|ISO 639-3||None (
gus – Guinean Sign Language
Francophone African Sign Language (Langue des Signes d'Afrique Francophone, or LSAF) is the variety, or varieties, of American Sign Language (ASL) used in several francophone countries of Africa. Education for the Deaf in these countries is based on ASL and written French; there is therefore a French influence on the language of the classroom.
With the exception of Algerian Sign Language, the sign languages of francophone Africa are unrelated to French Sign Language, except indirectly through their derivation from ASL. This is because most schools for the deaf in the region were founded by the American missionary Andrew Foster or by his students, starting in 1974. Chadian Sign Language may be closest to Nigerian Sign Language. (A few countries have languages unrelated to either: Madagascar Sign Language derives from Norwegian SL, and Tunisian Sign Language is apparently a language isolate.)
As in other African derivations of ASL, the language has been affected by local gestures and conventions. This is especially true of taboo topics such as sex (Dalle 1996).
As an example of the French influence on francophone ASL, the word for 'she' is made by pointing with at L-shaped hand, rather than with a simple index finger, because the name of the letter el is homonymous with elle ('she') in French. It is not clear to what extent such influence continues outside the classroom.
Francophone African countries which use ASL as the language of Deaf instruction are:
- Ivory Coast
- Burkina Faso
- Chad (from Nigeria)
- Central African Republic
- Republic of Congo (Brazzaville; from Nigeria)
- Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa; FSL is also used)
Ghanaian Sign Language
|Ghanaian Sign Language|
Ghanaian Sign Language is the national sign language of deaf people in Ghana, descended from American Sign Language. It was introduced in 1957 by Andrew Foster, a deaf African-American missionary, as there had been no education or organizations for the deaf previously. Foster went on to establish the first school for the deaf in Nigeria a few years later, and Nigerian Sign Language shows influence from GSL. GSL is unrelated to indigenous Ghanaian sign languages such as Adamorobe Sign Language and Nanabin Sign Language.
There are nine schools for the deaf in Ghana.
Greek Sign Language
Indonesian sign languages
Indonesian Sign Language, or Bahasa Isyarat Indonesia (BISINDO), is any of several related deaf sign languages of Indonesia, at least on the island of Java. It is based on American Sign Language (perhaps via Malaysian Sign Language), with local admixture in different cities. Although presented as a coherent language when advocating for recognition by the Indonesian government and use in education, the varieties used in different cities may not be mutually intelligible.
Jamaican Sign Language
|Jamaican Sign Language|
Malaysian Sign Language
Malaysian Sign Language was born when the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf was established in 1998 and use has expanded among deaf leaders and participants. It is based on American Sign Language (ASL), but the two are considered different languages. BIM in turn has been the basis for Indonesian Sign Language.
Moroccan Sign Language
|Moroccan Sign Language|
Moroccan Sign Language (MSL) is the language of the deaf community of Tetouan and some other cities of Morocco.
Moroccan Sign Language was created by American Peace Corps volunteers in Tetouan c. 1987, from American Sign Language (ASL) and existing signs; there is less than a 50% lexical similarity with ASL. It is not clear if the 'existing signs' were home sign or an established village sign language. The language is used in three programs for the deaf, but not throughout the country: It is not used in the large cities of Rabat, Tangier, or Casa Blanca, for example. In Oujda, near the Algerian border, Algerian Sign Language is used, or at least the local sign language has been strongly influenced by it.
Nigerian Sign Language
|Nigerian Sign Language|
|Native to||Nigeria, Chad, Republic of Congo|
|2,800 in Chad (2008)
unknown number in Nigeria
nsi – Nigerian Sign
cds – Chadian Sign
Nigerian Sign Language is the national sign language of deaf people in Nigeria. It was introduced in 1960, a few years after Ghanaian Sign Language, by Andrew Foster, a deaf African-American missionary, and is based on American Sign Language (and indeed may be considered a dialect of ASL), as there had been no education or organizations for the deaf previously. There is a Ghanaian influence in NSL; both are based on American Sign Language. NSL is unrelated to local Nigerian sign languages such as Hausa Sign Language, Yoruba Sign Language, and Bura Sign Language.
Chadian and Congolese teachers for the deaf are trained in Nigeria. There are deaf schools in Chad in N’Djamena, Sarh, and Moundou.
Panamanian Sign Language
|Panamanian Sign Language|
|Lengua de señas panameñas|
Philippine Sign Language
FSL is believed to be part of the French Sign Language family. It has been strongly influenced by American Sign Language since the establishment in 1907 of the School for the Deaf and Blind (SDB) (now the Philippine School for the Deaf) by Delia Delight Rice (1883-1964), an American Thomasite teacher born to deaf parents. The school was run and managed by American principals until the 1940s. In the 1960s, contact with American Sign Language continued through the launching of the Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation and the Laguna Christian College for the Deaf. Another source of ASL influence was the assignment of volunteers from the United States Peace Corps, who were stationed at various places in the Philippines from 1974 through 1989, as well as religious organizations that promoted ASL and Manually Coded English. Starting in 1982, the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA), led by former Peace Corps volunteer G. Dennis Drake, established a series of residential elementary programs in Bohol using Philippine Sign Language as the primary language of instruction. The Bohol Deaf Academy also primarily emphasizes Philippine Sign Language.
Usage of Filipino Sign Language was reported in 2009 as being used by 54% of sign-language users in the Philippines.
Puerto Rican Sign Language
|Puerto Rican Sign Language|
|Lengua de señas puertorriqueña|
|Native to||Puerto Rico|
|Ethnicity||8,000 to 40,000 deaf (1986)|
Puerto Rican Sign Language (PRSL) is a variety or descendent of American Sign Language, which was introduced to Puerto Rico in 1907. It is not clear how far RPSL may have diverged from ASL, but Ethnologue speaks of bilingualism in ASL as well as speakers who know only PRSL.
Sierra Leonean Sign Language
|Sierra Leonean Sign Language|
|Native to||Sierra Leone|
Sierra Leonean Sign Language is a variety or descendent of American Sign Language (ASL) used in schools for the deaf in Sierra Leone, or at least in the capital Freetown. As in much of West Africa, the first schools for the deaf were founded by the American missionary Andrew Foster or his students.
Selangor Sign Language
|Selangor Sign Language|
|Bahasa Isyarat Selangor|
|Region||Kuala Lumpur and Selangor|
|500 (no date)
Mostly elderly, all bilingual in Malaysian Sign
Selangor Sign Language (SSL), also known as Kuala Lumpur Sign Language (KLSL), is a sign language used in Malaysia. It was originally based on American Sign Language (ASL) but has diverged significantly enough to now be considered a language in its own right. Kuala Lumpur was formerly located in the state of Selangor before it became a federal territory in 1974.
Like Penang Sign Language (PSL), it now mainly used by older people, although many younger people can understand it.
Thai Sign Language
Thai Sign Language (TSL) or Modern Standard Thai Sign Language (MSTSL), is the national sign language of Thailand's Deaf community and is used in most parts of the country by the 20% of the estimated 56,000 pre-linguistically deaf people who go to school. Thai Sign Language was acknowledged as "the national language of deaf people in Thailand" in August 1999, in a resolution signed by the Minister of Education on behalf of the Royal Thai Government. As with many sign languages, the means of transmission to children occurs within families with signing deaf parents and in schools for the deaf. A robust process of language teaching and enculturation among deaf children has been documented and photographed in the Thai residential schools for the deaf.
Thai Sign Language is related to American Sign Language, and belongs to the same language family as ASL. This relatedness is due to language contact and creolisation that has occurred between ASL, which was introduced into deaf schools in Thailand in the 1950s by American-trained Thai educators and at least two indigenous sign languages that were in use at the time: Old Bangkok Sign Language and Old Chiangmai Sign Language.
- Sophie Dalle, 1996–1997, Rapport de Stage: La language de signes au Congo (in French)
- Kamei, Nobutaka ed. 2008. Langue des Signes d'Afrique Francophone (LSAF) (DVD). Fuchu: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
- Tamomo, Serge. 1994. Le langage des signes du sourd Africain Francophone. Cotonou, Bénin: PEFISS.
- Garay, S. (2004). Understanding the Panama Deaf Community & Sign Language: Lengua de Señas Panameñas. (Instructional CD) Asociación Nacional de Sordos de Panamá.
- —— (1990). Panama's sign language dictionary: Lengua de señas panameñas. Asociación Nacional de Sordos de Panamá.
- Bolivian Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- "School for the Deaf Faces Hostile Takeover". World Watch Monitor. Aug 18, 2000. Archived from the original on June 29, 2015. Retrieved Jun 29, 2015.
- Holbrook, David (2009). "Bolivia Deaf Community and Sign Language Pre-Survey Report" (pdf). SIL International.
- Collaud, Carole. "Projektinformationen: Bericht von Carole Collaud, 1. Teil" (in German). Retrieved June 29, 2015.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Costa Rican Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- James Woodward, 1991, "Sign Language Varieties in Costa Rica", in Sign Language Studies 73, p. 329-346
- Gaurav Mathur & Donna Jo Napoli, 2010, Deaf around the World: The Impact of Language, Oxford University Press, page 43
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Dominican Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- ASL at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Guinean Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- "Francophone African Sign Language - AASL". Aasl.aacore.jp. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
- Ghanaian Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ghanaian Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Jamaican Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Penterjemahan dan Bahasa Isyarat By Hasuria Che Omar.
- Moroccan Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Chadian Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Nigerian Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Panamanian Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- "Escuela para niños sordos", El Diario de Hoy, 2006-01-19
- Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.
- A century of absolute commitment - The Manila Times Internet Edition (archived from the original on 2007-02-25)
- Abat, Rafaelito M., and Liza B. Martinez. The History of Sign Language in the Philippines: Piecing Together the Puzzle, Philippine Federation of the Deaf / Philippine Deaf Resource Center, Philippine Linguistics Congress, Department of Linguistics, University of the Philippines, January 25-27, 2006, 8 pages (PDF), retrieved on: March 25, 2008 (archived from the original on 2011-07-28)
- Education, July 17, 2012, International Deaf Education Association, retrieved on August 25, 2014.
- The Founder And History, August 16, 2012, International Deaf Education Association, retrieved on August 25, 2014.
- Academics, Bohol Deaf Academy, retrieved on August 25, 2014.
- Calls made for a national language for the deaf - The Carillon (archived from the original on 2012-03-25)
- Puerto Rican Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Sierra Leonean Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Selangor Sign Language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
- Reilly, Charles & Suvannus, Sathaporn (1999). Education of deaf people in the kingdom of Thailand. In Brelje, H.William (ed.) (1999). Global perspectives on education of the deaf in selected countries. Hillsboro, OR: Butte. pp. 367–82. NB. This is a prevalence estimate 1/1000 people as deaf. Based on 2007 figures of Thailand's population, an estimate of 67,000 deaf people is more accurate. Furthermore, hearing-speaking people are beginning to learn and use the Thai Sign Language.
- Reilly, Charles and Reilly, Nipapon (2005). The Rising of Lotus Flowers: The Self-Education of Deaf Children in thai Boarding Schools. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.
- Woodward, James C. (1996). Modern Standard Thai Sign Language, influence from ASL, and its relationship to original Thai sign varieties. Sign Language Studies 92:227–52. (see page 245)
- Suvannus, Sathaporn (1987). Thailand. In Van Cleve, 282–84. In: Van Cleve, John V. (1987) (ed.) Gallaudet encyclopedia of deafness and deaf people. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
- Woodward (1996), Ibid.