Ugandan Sign Language

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Ugandan Sign Language
Native to Uganda
Native speakers
(this article does not contain any information regarding the number of speakers)[1]
local creole?
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ugn
Glottolog ugan1238[2]

Ugandan Sign Language (USL) is the deaf sign language of Uganda. Uganda was the second country in the world to recognize sign language in its constitution, in 1995. A Ugandan Sign Language Dictionary has been published. However, knowledge of USL is primarily urban, as access to education for the rural deaf remains poor. Nonetheless, USL is a highly valued element of group identity among the deaf community.

The first Ugandan schools for the deaf opened in 1962, and several sign languages are reported to have merged in 1988, when sign was allowed in the classroom. This suggests that USL may be a creole of the local languages that the deaf students created informally in the different schools. There were also influences from ASL, BSL, and Kenyan Sign Language, the first two from the language of instruction in early classrooms, and the latter from deaf Ugandans who went to Kenya for higher education.

Both the British two-handed manual alphabet and the American manual alphabet are used, with minor modifications. Finger-spelling and initialized signs using both alphabets are common among people who learned USL formally as children. Mouthing is also common with abbreviated syllables from both English and Luganda.

It is unclear if USL is related to Rwandan Sign Language.


  1. ^ The WFD figure of 160,000 cited by Ethnologue appears to be the lower end of the number of deaf Ugandans, not the number of signers.
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ugandan Sign Language". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • Dorothy Lule and Lars Wallin, 2010, "Transmission of Sign Languages in Africa". In Brentari, ed, Sign Languages. Cambridge University Press.

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