Signed language
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Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of met ...
s that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in combination with non-manual markers. Sign languages are full-fledged natural languages with their own grammar and lexicon. Sign languages are not universal and are usually not
mutually intelligible In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related Variety (linguistics), varieties can readily understand each other without prior familiarity or special effort. It ...
, although there are also similarities among different sign languages. Linguists consider both spoken and signed communication to be types of
natural language In neuropsychology, linguistics, and philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has linguistic evolution, evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditati ...
, meaning that both emerged through an abstract, protracted aging process and evolved over time without meticulous planning. Sign language should not be confused with
body language Body language is a type of communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information. Such behavior includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space. The ...
, a type of
nonverbal communication Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the transmission of messages or signals through a nonverbal platform such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, Posture (psychology), posture, and body language. It includes the use of social cues, kinesi ...
. Wherever communities of
deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that precludes a person from understanding spoken language, an Audiology, audiological condition. In this context it ...
people exist, sign languages have developed as useful means of communication and form the core of local Deaf cultures. Although signing is used primarily by the deaf and
hard of hearing Hearing loss is a partial or total inability to Hearing, hear. Hearing loss may be present at birth or acquired at any time afterwards. Hearing loss may occur in one or both ears. In children, hearing problems can affect the ability to Language ...
, it is also used by hearing individuals, such as those unable to physically speak, those who have trouble with oral language due to a disability or condition (
augmentative and alternative communication Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language. AAC is used by t ...
), and those with deaf family members including children of deaf adults. The number of sign languages worldwide is not precisely known. Each country generally has its own native sign language; some have more than one. The 2021 edition of ''
Ethnologue ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as ''Ethnoloɠue'') is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world. It is the world's most comprehensi ...
'' lists 150 sign languages, while the SIGN-HUB Atlas of Sign Language Structures lists over 200 and notes that there are more which have not been documented or discovered yet. As of 2021, Indo Sign Language is the most used sign language in the world, and ''Ethnologue'' ranks it as the 151st most "spoken" language in the world. Some sign languages have obtained some form of
legal recognition Legal recognition of a Status (law), status or Question of law, fact in a jurisdiction is formal acknowledgement of it as being true, valid, Law, legal, or worthy of consideration, and may involve approval or the granting of rights. For example, ...
. Linguists distinguish natural sign languages from other systems that are precursors to them or obtained from them, such as constructed manual codes for spoken languages,
home sign Home sign (or kitchen sign) is a gestural communication system, often invented spontaneously by a deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that preclude ...
, " baby sign", and signs learned by non-human primates.


History

Groups of deaf people have used sign languages throughout history. One of the earliest written records of a sign language is from the fifth century BC, in
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
's ''
Cratylus Cratylus ( ; grc, Κρατύλος, ''Kratylos'') was an ancient Athenian philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental ques ...
'', where
Socrates Socrates (; ; –399 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher from Classical Athens, Athens who is credited as the founder of Western philosophy and among the first moral philosophers of the Ethics, ethical tradition of thought. An enigmati ...
says: "If we hadn't a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn't we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body, just as dumb people do at present?" Until the 19th century, most of what is known about historical sign languages is limited to the manual alphabets (fingerspelling systems) that were invented to facilitate the transfer of words from a spoken language to a sign language, rather than documentation of the language itself. The earliest records of contact between Europeans and Indigenous peoples of the Gulf Coast region in what is now Texas and northern Mexico note a fully formed sign language already in use by the time of the Europeans' arrival there.Wurtzburg, Susan, and Campbell, Lyle. "North American Indian Sign Language: Evidence for its Existence before European Contact," ''International Journal of American Linguistics,'' Vol. 61, No. 2 (Apr., 1995), pp. 153-167. These records include the accounts of
Cabeza de Vaca In Mexican cuisine, ''cabeza'' (''lit.'' 'head') is the meat from a roasted head of an animal, served as taco or burrito fillings. Typically, the whole head is placed on a steamer or grill, and customers may ask for particular parts of the body ...
in 1527 and Coronado in 1541. Spanish monk Pedro Ponce de León (1520–1584) developed the first manual alphabet. This alphabet was based, in whole or in part, on the simple hand gestures used by monks living in silence. In 1620,
Juan Pablo Bonet Juan Pablo Bonet (–1633) was a Spanish priest and pioneer of deaf education, education for the deaf. He published the first book on deaf education in 1620 in Madrid. Juan Pablo Bonet was born in Torres de Berrellén (Aragon), and became secreta ...
published ('Reduction of letters and art for teaching mute people to speak') in Madrid. It is considered the first modern treatise of sign language phonetics, setting out a method of oral education for deaf people and a manual alphabet. In Britain, manual alphabets were also in use for a number of purposes, such as secret communication, public speaking, or communication by or with deaf people. In 1648,
John Bulwer John Bulwer (baptised 16 May 1606 – buried 16 October 1656 ) was an English people, English physician and early Baconian method, Baconian natural philosopher who wrote five works exploring the Body and human communication, particularly by ge ...
described "Master Babington", a deaf man proficient in the use of a manual alphabet, " on the of his fingers", whose wife could converse with him easily, even in the dark through the use of
tactile signing Tactile signing is a common means of communication used by people with deafblindness. It is based on a sign language or another system of manual communication. "Tactile signing" refers to the mode or medium, i.e. signing (using some form of signe ...
. In 1680,
George Dalgarno George Dalgarno (c. 1616 – 1687) was a Scotland, Scottish intellectual interested in natural language, linguistic problems. Originally from Aberdeen, he later worked as a schoolteacher in Oxford in collaboration with John Wilkins, although the tw ...
published ''Didascalocophus, or, The deaf and dumb mans tutor'', in which he presented his own method of deaf education, including an "arthrological" alphabet, where letters are indicated by pointing to different joints of the fingers and palm of the left hand. Arthrological systems had been in use by hearing people for some time; some have speculated that they can be traced to early
Ogham Ogham (Irish language, Modern Irish: ; mga, ogum, ogom, later mga, ogam, label=none ) is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the Primitive Irish, early Irish language (in the Ogham inscriptions, "orthodox" inscriptions, 4th t ...
manual alphabets. The
vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in Vowel ...
s of this alphabet have survived in the modern alphabets used in
British Sign Language British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language among the Deaf culture, Deaf community in the UK. Based on the percentage of people who reported 'using British Sign Languag ...
,
Auslan Auslan () is the majority sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation ...
and
New Zealand Sign Language New Zealand Sign Language or NZSL ( mi, te reo Turi) is the main language of the Deaf culture, deaf community in New Zealand. It became an official language of New Zealand in April 2006 under the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006. The purpose of ...
. The earliest known printed pictures of consonants of the modern
two-handed alphabet Several manual alphabet Fingerspelling (or dactylology) is the representation of the letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet), a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech ...
appeared in 1698 with (Latin for ''Language''
r ''Tongue'' R, or r, is the eighteenth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet), a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet. * Letterform, t ...
''of the Finger''), a pamphlet by an anonymous author who was himself unable to speak. He suggested that the manual alphabet could also be used by mutes, for silence and secrecy, or purely for entertainment. Nine of its letters can be traced to earlier alphabets, and 17 letters of the modern two-handed alphabet can be found among the two sets of 26 handshapes depicted. Charles de La Fin published a book in 1692 describing an alphabetic system where pointing to a body part represented the first letter of the part (e.g. Brow=B), and vowels were located on the fingertips as with the other British systems. He described such codes for both English and Latin. By 1720, the British manual alphabet had found more or less its present form. Descendants of this alphabet have been used by deaf communities (or at least in classrooms) in the former British colonies India, Australia, New Zealand, Uganda and South Africa, as well as the republics and provinces of the former Yugoslavia, Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean, Indonesia, Norway, Germany and the United States. During the Polygar Wars against the British, Veeran Sundaralingam communicated with
Veerapandiya Kattabomman Veerapandiya Kattabomman was an 18th-century Tamil Palayakarrar and king of Panchalankurichi in Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu (; , TN) is a States and union territories of India, state in southern India. It is the List of states and union terr ...
's mute younger brother, Oomaithurai, by using their own sign language. Frenchman
Charles-Michel de l'Épée Charles-Michel de l'Épée (; 24 November 1712 – 23 December 1789) was a philanthropy, philanthropic educator of 18th-century France who has become known as the "Father of the Deaf". Overview Charles-Michel de l'Épée was born to a wealthy fam ...
published his manual alphabet in the 18th century, which has survived largely unchanged in France and North America until the present time. In 1755, Abbé de l'Épée founded the first school for deaf children in Paris;
Laurent Clerc Louis Laurent Marie Clerc (; 26 December 1785 – 18 July 1869) was a French teacher called "The Apostle of the Deaf culture, Deaf in America" and was regarded as the most renowned deaf person in American Deaf History. He was taught by Abbé S ...
was arguably its most famous graduate. Clerc went to the United States with
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (December 10, 1787 – September 10, 1851) was an American educator. Along with Laurent Clerc and Mason Fitch Cogswell, Mason Cogswell, he co-founded the first permanent institution for the Education of the Deaf, educatio ...
to found the
American School for the Deaf The American School for the Deaf (ASD), originally ''The American Asylum, At Hartford, For The Education And Instruction Of The Deaf'', is the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States, and the first school for children with disa ...
in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817. Gallaudet's son,
Edward Miner Gallaudet Edward Miner Gallaudet (February 5, 1837 – September 26, 1917), son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Sophia Fowler Gallaudet, was the first president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. (then known as the Columbia Institution for the ...
, founded a school for the deaf in 1857 in Washington, D.C., which in 1864 became the National Deaf-Mute College. Now called
Gallaudet University Gallaudet University ( ) is a private university, private University charter#Federal, federally chartered research university in Washington, D.C. for the education of the Hearing loss, deaf and hard of hearing. It was founded in 1864 as a gramma ...
, it is still the only liberal arts university for deaf people in the world. Sign languages generally do not have any linguistic relation to the spoken languages of the lands in which they arise. The correlation between sign and spoken languages is complex and varies depending on the country more than the spoken language. For example, although Australia,
English Canada English Canada comprises that part of the population within Canada, whether of British Canadians, British origin or otherwise, that speaks English language, English. The term ''English Canada'' can also be used for one of the following: #D ...
, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. all have English as their dominant language,
American Sign Language American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States of America and most of Anglophone Canada. ASL is a complete and organized visual language that is expres ...
(ASL), derived from
French Sign Language French Sign Language (french: langue des signes française, LSF) is the sign language of the deaf in France and Romandy, French-speaking parts of Switzerland. According to ''Ethnologue'', it has 100,000 native signers. French Sign Language is ...
, is the main sign language used in the U.S. and
English Canada English Canada comprises that part of the population within Canada, whether of British Canadians, British origin or otherwise, that speaks English language, English. The term ''English Canada'' can also be used for one of the following: #D ...
, whereas the other three countries use varieties of British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language, unrelated to ASL. Similarly, the sign languages of Spain and Mexico are very different, despite Spanish being the national language in each country, and the sign language used in
Bolivia , image_flag = Bandera de Bolivia (Estado).svg , flag_alt = Horizontal tricolor (red, yellow, and green from top to bottom) with the coat of arms of Bolivia in the center , flag_alt2 = 7 × 7 square p ...
is based on ASL rather than any sign language that is used in any other Spanish-speaking country. Variations also arise within a 'national' sign language which do not necessarily correspond to dialect differences in the national spoken language; rather, they can usually be correlated to the geographic location of residential schools for the deaf.
International Sign International Sign (IS) is a pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and gra ...
, formerly known as Gestuno, is used mainly at international deaf events such as the
Deaflympics The Deaflympics also known as Deaflympiad (previously called World Games for the Deaf, and International Games for the Deaf) are a periodic series of multi-sport events sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at which Deaf athlet ...
and meetings of the
World Federation of the Deaf The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international non-governmental organization A non-governmental organization (NGO) or non-governmental organisation (see spelling differences) is an organization that generally is formed indepen ...
. While recent studies claim that International Sign is a kind of a
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
, they conclude that it is more complex than a typical pidgin and indeed is more like a full sign language. While the more commonly used term is International Sign, it is sometimes referred to as Gestuno, International Sign Pidgin or International Gesture (IG). International Sign is a term used by the
World Federation of the Deaf The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international non-governmental organization A non-governmental organization (NGO) or non-governmental organisation (see spelling differences) is an organization that generally is formed indepen ...
and other international organisations.


Linguistics

In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any spoken language, despite the common misconception that they are not "real languages". Professional
linguists Linguistics is the science, scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure ...
have studied many sign languages and found that they exhibit the fundamental properties that exist in all languages. Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1979). ''The signs of language''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. .Sandler, Wendy; & Lillo-Martin, Diane. (2006). Sign Language and Linguistic Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Such fundamental properties include duality of patterning and
recursion Recursion (adjective: ''recursive'') occurs when a thing is defined in terms of itself or of its type. Recursion is used in a variety of disciplines ranging from linguistics to logic. The most common application of recursion is in mathematics ...
. Duality of patterning means that languages are composed of smaller, meaningless units which can be combined into larger units with meaning (see below). The term recursion means that languages exhibit grammatical rules and the output of such a rule can be the input of the same rule. It is, for example, possible in sign languages to create
subordinate clause A subordinate clause, dependent clause, subclause, or embedded clause is a clause In language, a clause is a Constituent (linguistics), constituent that comprises a semantic predicand (expressed or not) and a semantic Predicate (grammar), predi ...
s and a subordinate clause may contain another subordinate clause. Sign languages are not
mime Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) is an Internet standard that extends the format of email Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using electronic devices. Email was th ...
—in other words, signs are conventional, often arbitrary and do not necessarily have a visual relationship to their referent, much as most spoken language is not
onomatopoeic Onomatopoeia is the process of creating a word that phonetics, phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes. Such a word itself is also called an onomatopoeia. Common onomatopoeias include animal noises such as Oin ...
. While
iconicity In functional-cognitive linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and linguistics. Models and theoretical a ...
is more systematic and widespread in sign languages than in spoken ones, the difference is not categorical. The visual modality allows the human preference for close connections between form and meaning, present but suppressed in spoken languages, to be more fully expressed. This does not mean that sign languages are a visual rendition of a spoken language. They have complex
grammar In linguistics, the grammar of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. The term can also refer to the study of such constraint ...
s of their own and can be used to discuss any topic, from the simple and concrete to the lofty and abstract. Sign languages are not inventions of educators, or ciphers of the spoken language of the surrounding community. Sign languages, like spoken languages, organize elementary, meaningless units into meaningful
semantic Semantics (from grc, wikt:σημαντικός, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference, Meaning (philosophy), meaning, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct discipline ...
units. This type of organization in natural language is often called duality of patterning. As in spoken languages, these meaningless units are represented as (combinations of) features, although coarser descriptions are often also made in terms of five "parameters":
handshape In sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in combination with non-man ...
(or ''handform''),
orientation Orientation may refer to: Positioning in physical space * Map orientation, the relationship between directions on a map and compass directions * Orientation (housing), the position of a building with respect to the sun, a concept in building de ...
,
location In geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia''. Combination of Greek words ‘Geo’ (The Earth) and ‘Graphien’ (to describe), literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the la ...
(or ''place of articulation''), movement, and non-manual
expression Expression may refer to: Linguistics * Expression (linguistics), a word, phrase, or sentence * Fixed expression, a form of words with a specific meaning * Idiom, a type of fixed expression * Metaphor#Common types, Metaphorical expression, a part ...
. (These meaningless units in sign languages were initially called
chereme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West M ...
s, from the Greek word for ''hand'', by analogy to the
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West M ...
s, from Greek for ''voice'', of spoken languages. Now they are sometimes called phonemes when describing sign languages too, since the function is the same, but more commonly discussed in terms of "features" or "parameters".) More generally, both sign and spoken languages share the characteristics that linguists have found in all natural human languages, such as transitoriness, semanticity,
arbitrariness Arbitrariness is the quality of being "determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle". It is also used to refer to a choice made without any specific criterion or restraint. Arbitrary decisions are not necess ...
,
productivity Productivity is the efficiency of production of goods or services expressed by some measure. Measurements of productivity are often expressed as a ratio of an aggregate output to a single input or an aggregate input used in a production proc ...
, and
cultural transmission Cultural learning is the way a group of people or animals within a society A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically su ...
. Common linguistic features of many sign languages are the occurrence of classifier constructions, a high degree of
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number A number is a mathemat ...
by means of changes of movement, and a
topic-comment In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment (rheme or Focus (linguistics), focus) is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structu ...
syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the study of how words and morphemes combine to form larger units such as phrases and sentence (linguistics), sentences. Central concerns of syntax include word order, grammatical relations, hierarchical sentence st ...
. More than spoken languages, sign languages can convey meaning by simultaneous means, e.g. by the use of
space Space is the boundless Three-dimensional space, three-dimensional extent in which Physical body, objects and events have relative position (geometry), position and direction (geometry), direction. In classical physics, physical space is often ...
, two manual articulators, and the signer's face and body. Though there is still much discussion on the topic of iconicity in sign languages, classifiers are generally considered to be highly iconic, as these complex constructions "function as predicates that may express any or all of the following: motion, position, stative-descriptive, or handling information". It needs to be noted that the term classifier is not used by everyone working on these constructions. Across the field of sign language linguistics the same constructions are also referred with other terms such as depictive signs. Today, linguists study sign languages as true languages, part of the field of linguistics. However, the category "sign languages" was not added to the ''Linguistic Bibliography/Bibliographie Linguistique'' until the 1988 volume, when it appeared with 39 entries.


Relationships with spoken languages

There is a common misconception that sign languages are somehow dependent on spoken languages: that they are spoken language expressed in signs, or that they were invented by hearing people. Similarities in
language processing in the brain Language processing refers to the way humans use words to communicate ideas and feelings, and how such communications are processed and understood. Language processing is considered to be a uniquely human ability that is not produced with the sa ...
between signed and spoken languages further perpetuated this misconception. Hearing teachers in deaf schools, such as
Charles-Michel de l'Épée Charles-Michel de l'Épée (; 24 November 1712 – 23 December 1789) was a philanthropy, philanthropic educator of 18th-century France who has become known as the "Father of the Deaf". Overview Charles-Michel de l'Épée was born to a wealthy fam ...
or
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (December 10, 1787 – September 10, 1851) was an American educator. Along with Laurent Clerc and Mason Fitch Cogswell, Mason Cogswell, he co-founded the first permanent institution for the Education of the Deaf, educatio ...
, are often incorrectly referred to as "inventors" of sign language. Instead, sign languages, like all natural languages, are developed by the people who use them, in this case, deaf people, who may have little or no knowledge of any spoken language. As a sign language develops, it sometimes borrows elements from spoken languages, just as all languages borrow from other languages that they are in contact with. Sign languages vary in how much they borrow from spoken languages. In many sign languages, a
manual alphabet Fingerspelling (or dactylology) is the representation of the letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet), a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of ...
(fingerspelling) may be used in signed communication to borrow a word from a spoken language, by spelling out the letters. This is most commonly used for proper names of people and places; it is also used in some languages for concepts for which no sign is available at that moment, particularly if the people involved are to some extent bilingual in the spoken language. Fingerspelling can sometimes be a source of new signs, such as initialized signs, in which the handshape represents the first letter of a spoken word with the same meaning. On the whole, though, sign languages are independent of spoken languages and follow their own paths of development. For example,
British Sign Language British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language among the Deaf culture, Deaf community in the UK. Based on the percentage of people who reported 'using British Sign Languag ...
(BSL) and
American Sign Language American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States of America and most of Anglophone Canada. ASL is a complete and organized visual language that is expres ...
(ASL) are quite different and mutually unintelligible, even though the hearing people of the United Kingdom and the United States share the same spoken language. The grammars of sign languages do not usually resemble those of spoken languages used in the same geographical area; in fact, in terms of syntax, ASL shares more with spoken
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
than it does with English. Similarly, countries which use a single spoken language throughout may have two or more sign languages, or an area that contains more than one spoken language might use only one sign language.
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...
, which has 11 official spoken languages and a similar number of other widely used spoken languages, is a good example of this. It has only one sign language with two variants due to its history of having two major educational institutions for the deaf which have served different geographic areas of the country.


Spatial grammar and simultaneity

Sign languages exploit the unique features of the visual medium (sight), but may also exploit tactile features ( tactile sign languages). Spoken language is by and large linear; only one sound can be made or received at a time. Sign language, on the other hand, is visual and, hence, can use a simultaneous expression, although this is limited articulatorily and linguistically. Visual perception allows processing of simultaneous information. One way in which many sign languages take advantage of the spatial nature of the language is through the use of classifiers. Classifiers allow a signer to spatially show a referent's type, size, shape, movement, or extent. The large focus on the possibility of simultaneity in sign languages in contrast to spoken languages is sometimes exaggerated, though. The use of two manual articulators is subject to motor constraints, resulting in a large extent of symmetry or signing with one articulator only. Further, sign languages, just like spoken languages, depend on linear sequencing of signs to form sentences; the greater use of simultaneity is mostly seen in the
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts *Morphology (astronomy) Galaxy morphological classification is a system used by astronomers ...
(internal structure of individual signs).


Non-manual elements

Sign languages convey much of their prosody through non-manual elements. Postures or movements of the body, head, eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, and mouth are used in various combinations to show several categories of information, including
lexical Lexical may refer to: Linguistics * Lexical corpus or lexis, a complete set of all words in a language * Lexical item, a basic unit of lexicographical classification * Lexicon, the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge * Lexical ...
distinction,
grammatical In linguistics, grammaticality is determined by the conformity to language usage as derived by the grammar of a particular variety (linguistics), speech variety. The notion of grammaticality rose alongside the theory of generative grammar, the go ...
structure, adjectival or
adverb An adverb is a word or an expression that generally modifies a verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax generally conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or ...
ial content, and
discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation to any form of communication. Discourse is a major topic in social theory, with work spanning fields such as sociology, anthropology, continental philosophy, and discourse analysis. F ...
functions. At the lexical level, signs can be lexically specified for non-manual elements in addition to the manual articulation. For instance, facial expressions may accompany verbs of emotion, as in the sign for ''angry'' in
Czech Sign Language Czech Sign Language is the sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in ...
. Non-manual elements may also be lexically contrastive. For example, in ASL (American Sign Language), facial components distinguish some signs from other signs. An example is the sign translated as ''not yet'', which requires that the tongue touch the lower lip and that the head rotate from side to side, in addition to the manual part of the sign. Without these features the sign would be interpreted as ''late''.
Mouthing In sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in combination with non-man ...
s, which are (parts of) spoken words accompanying lexical signs, can also be contrastive, as in the manually identical signs for ''doctor'' and ''battery'' in Sign Language of the Netherlands. While the content of a signed sentence is produced manually, many grammatical functions are produced non-manually (i.e., with the face and the torso). Such functions include questions, negation, relative clauses and topicalization. ASL and BSL use similar non-manual marking for yes/no questions, for example. They are shown through raised eyebrows and a forward head tilt.Baker, Charlotte, and Dennis Cokely (1980). ''American Sign Language: A teacher's resource text on grammar and culture.'' Silver Spring, MD: T.J. Publishers.Sutton-Spence, Rachel, and Bencie Woll (1998). ''The linguistics of British Sign Language.'' Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Some adjectival and adverbial information is conveyed through non-manual elements, but what these elements are varies from language to language. For instance, in ASL a slightly open mouth with the tongue relaxed and visible in the corner of the mouth means 'carelessly', but a similar non-manual in BSL means 'boring' or 'unpleasant'. Discourse functions such as turn taking are largely regulated through head movement and eye gaze. Since the addressee in a signed conversation must be watching the signer, a signer can avoid letting the other person have a turn by not looking at them, or can indicate that the other person may have a turn by making eye contact.


Iconicity

Iconicity In functional-cognitive linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and linguistics. Models and theoretical a ...
is similarity or analogy between the form of a sign (linguistic or otherwise) and its meaning, as opposed to
arbitrariness Arbitrariness is the quality of being "determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle". It is also used to refer to a choice made without any specific criterion or restraint. Arbitrary decisions are not necess ...
. The first studies on iconicity in ASL were published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many early sign language linguists rejected the notion that iconicity was an important aspect of sign languages, considering most perceived iconicity to be extralinguistic. However, mimetic aspects of sign language (signs that imitate, mimic, or represent) are found in abundance across a wide variety of sign languages. For example, when deaf children learning sign language try to express something but do not know the associated sign, they will often invent an iconic sign that displays mimetic properties. Though it never disappears from a particular sign language, iconicity is gradually weakened as forms of sign languages become more customary and are subsequently grammaticized. As a form becomes more conventional, it becomes disseminated in a methodical way phonologically to the rest of the sign language community. Nancy Frishberg concluded that though originally present in many signs, iconicity is degraded over time through the application of natural grammatical processes. In 1978, psychologist Roger Brown was one of the first to suggest that the properties of ASL give it a clear advantage in terms of learning and memory. In his study, Brown found that when a group of six hearing children were taught signs that had high levels of iconic mapping they were significantly more likely to recall the signs in a later memory task than another group of six children that were taught signs that had little or no iconic properties. In contrast to Brown, linguists Elissa Newport and Richard Meier found that iconicity "appears to have virtually no impact on the acquisition of American Sign Language". A central task for the pioneers of sign language linguistics was trying to prove that ASL was a real language and not merely a collection of gestures or "English on the hands." One of the prevailing beliefs at this time was that 'real languages' must consist of an arbitrary relationship between form and meaning. Thus, if ASL consisted of signs that had iconic form-meaning relationship, it could not be considered a real language. As a result, iconicity as a whole was largely neglected in research of sign languages for a long time. However, iconicity also plays a role in many spoken languages. Spoken
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
for example exhibits many words mimicking the sounds of their potential referents (see
Japanese sound symbolism The Japanese language is spoken natively by about 128 million people, primarily by Japanese people and primarily in Japan, the only country where it is the national language. Japanese belongs to the Japonic languages, Japonic or Japanese ...
). Later researchers, thus, acknowledged that natural languages do not need to consist of an arbitrary relationship between form and meaning. The visual nature of sign language simply allows for a greater degree of iconicity compared to spoken languages as most real-world objects can be described by a prototypical shape (e.g., a table usually has a flat surface), but most real-world objects do not make prototypical sounds that can be mimicked by spoken languages (e.g., tables do not make prototypical sounds). It has to be noted, however, that sign languages are not fully iconic. On the one hand, there are also many arbitrary signs in sign languages and, on the other hand, the grammar of a sign language puts limits to the degree of iconicity: All known sign languages, for example, express lexical concepts via manual signs. From a truly iconic language one would expect that a concept like smiling would be expressed by mimicking a smile (i.e., by performing a smiling face). All known sign languages, however, do not express the concept of smiling by a smiling face, but by a manual sign. The
cognitive linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and linguistics. Models and theoretical accounts of cognitive linguistics are cons ...
perspective rejects a more traditional definition of iconicity as a relationship between linguistic form and a concrete, real-world referent. Rather it is a set of selected correspondences between the form and meaning of a sign.Taub, S. (2001). ''Language from the body''. New York : Cambridge University Press. In this view, iconicity is grounded in a language user's mental representation ("
construal In social psychology Social psychology is the scientific study of how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the real or imagined presence of other people or by social norms. Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as ...
" in
cognitive grammar Cognitive grammar is a Cognitive psychology, cognitive approach to language developed by Ronald Langacker, which hypothesizes that grammar, semantics, and lexicon exist on a continuum instead of as separate processes altogether. This approach to la ...
). It is defined as a fully grammatical and central aspect of a sign language rather than a peripheral phenomenon. The cognitive linguistics perspective allows for some signs to be fully iconic or partially iconic given the number of correspondences between the possible parameters of form and meaning. In this way, the
Israeli Sign Language Israeli Sign Language, also known as Shassi or ISL, is the most commonly used sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign lan ...
(ISL) sign for ''ask'' has parts of its form that are iconic ("movement away from the mouth" means "something coming from the mouth"), and parts that are arbitrary (the handshape, and the orientation). Many signs have
metaphoric A metaphor is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that intentionally deviates from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetorical effect. Figures of speech are traditionally classified into ...
mappings as well as iconic or metonymic ones. For these signs there are three-way correspondences between a form, a concrete source and an abstract target meaning. The ASL sign LEARN has this three-way correspondence. The abstract target meaning is "learning". The concrete source is putting objects into the head from books. The form is a grasping hand moving from an open palm to the forehead. The iconic correspondence is between form and concrete source. The metaphorical correspondence is between concrete source and abstract target meaning. Because the concrete source is connected to two correspondences linguistics refer to metaphorical signs as "double mapped".


Classification

Although sign languages have emerged naturally in deaf communities alongside or among spoken languages, they are unrelated to spoken languages and have different grammatical structures at their core. Sign languages may be classified by how they arise. In non-signing communities,
home sign Home sign (or kitchen sign) is a gestural communication system, often invented spontaneously by a deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that preclude ...
is not a full language, but closer to a
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
. Home sign is amorphous and generally idiosyncratic to a particular family, where a deaf child does not have contact with other deaf children and is not educated in sign. Such systems are not generally passed on from one generation to the next. Where they are passed on,
creolization Creolization is the process through which creole languages and cultures emerge. Creolization was first used by linguists to explain how Language contact, contact languages become Creole language, creole languages, but now scholars in other social s ...
would be expected to occur, resulting in a full language. However, home sign may also be closer to full language in communities where the hearing population has a gestural mode of language; examples include various
Australian Aboriginal sign languages Many Australian Aboriginal Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples are culturally distinct ethnic groups whose members are directly descended from the earliest known inhabitants of a particular ...
and gestural systems across West Africa, such as Mofu-Gudur in Cameroon. A
village sign language A village sign language, or village sign, also known as a shared sign language, is a local indigenous sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of s ...
is a local indigenous language that typically arises over several generations in a relatively insular community with a high incidence of deafness, and is used both by the deaf and by a significant portion of the hearing community, who have deaf family and friends. The most famous of these is probably the extinct
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was a village sign-language that was once widely used on the island of Martha's Vineyard Martha's Vineyard, often simply called the Vineyard, is an island in the Northeastern United States, located so ...
of the U.S., but there are also numerous village languages scattered throughout Africa, Asia, and America.
Deaf-community sign language A deaf-community or urban sign language is a sign language that emerges when deaf people who do not have a common language come together and form a community. This may be a formal situation, such as the establishment of a school for deaf students, ...
s, on the other hand, arise where deaf people come together to form their own communities. These include school sign, such as
Nicaraguan Sign Language Nicaraguan Sign Language (ISN; es, Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua) is a form of sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign ...
, which develop in the student bodies of deaf schools which do not use sign as a language of instruction, as well as community languages such as Bamako Sign Language, which arise where generally uneducated deaf people congregate in urban centers for employment. At first, Deaf-community sign languages are not generally known by the hearing population, in many cases not even by close family members. However, they may grow, in some cases becoming a language of instruction and receiving official recognition, as in the case of ASL. Both contrast with speech-taboo languages such as the various
Aboriginal Australian sign languages Many Australian Aboriginal cultures have or traditionally had a manually coded language, a sign language, signed counterpart of their oral language. This appears to be connected with various avoidance speech, speech taboos between certain kin o ...
, which are developed by the hearing community and only used secondarily by the deaf. It is doubtful whether most of these are languages in their own right, rather than manual codes of spoken languages, though a few such as Yolngu Sign Language are independent of any particular spoken language. Hearing people may also develop sign to communicate with users of other languages, as in
Plains Indian Sign Language Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), also known as Hand Talk, Plains Sign Talk, and First Nation Sign Language, is a trade language, formerly trade pidgin, that was once the lingua franca across what is now central Canada, the central and weste ...
; this was a contact signing system or
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
that was evidently not used by deaf people in the Plains nations, though it presumably influenced home sign.
Language contact Language contact occurs when speakers of two or more languages or Variety (linguistics), varieties interact and influence each other. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics. When speakers of different languages interact closely ...
and
creolization Creolization is the process through which creole languages and cultures emerge. Creolization was first used by linguists to explain how Language contact, contact languages become Creole language, creole languages, but now scholars in other social s ...
is common in the development of sign languages, making clear family classifications difficult – it is often unclear whether lexical similarity is due to borrowing or a common parent language, or whether there was one or several parent languages, such as several village languages merging into a Deaf-community language. Contact occurs between sign languages, between sign and spoken languages (
contact sign A contact sign language, or contact sign, is a variety or style of language that arises from contact between deaf individuals using a sign language and hearing individuals using an oral language (or the written or manually coded form of the ora ...
, a kind of pidgin), and between sign languages and gestural systems used by the broader community. One author has speculated that
Adamorobe Sign Language Adamorobe Sign Language or Adasl is a village sign language used in Adamorobe, an Akan Akan may refer to: People and languages *Akan people, an ethnic group in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire *Akan language, a language spoken by the Akan people *Kwa ...
, a village sign language of Ghana, may be related to the "gestural trade jargon used in the markets throughout West Africa", in vocabulary and
areal feature In geolinguistics, areal features are elements shared by languages or dialects in a geographic area, particularly when such features are not descended from a proto-language, or, common ancestor language. That is, an areal feature is contrasted to ...
s including prosody and phonetics.Wittmann, H. (1991). Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement. ''Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée'', 10(1), 88. * BSL,
Auslan Auslan () is the majority sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation ...
and NZSL are usually considered to be a language known as BANZSL. Maritime Sign Language and
South African Sign Language South African Sign Language (SASL, af, Suid-Afrikaanse Gebaretaal) is the primary sign language used by deaf people in South Africa. The South African government added a National Language Unit for South African Sign Language in 2001. SASL is n ...
are also related to BSL. *
Danish Sign Language Danish Sign Language ( da, Dansk tegnsprog, DTS) is the sign language used in Denmark. Classification Henri Wittmann (1991) Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguist ...
and its descendants
Norwegian Sign Language Norwegian Sign Language, or NSL (Norwegian language, Norwegian or , ''NTS''), is the principal sign language in Norway. There are many sign language organizations and some television programs broadcast in NSL in Norway. The NRK, Norwegian Broadc ...
and Icelandic Sign Language are largely mutually intelligible with
Swedish Sign Language Swedish Sign Language (SSL; ) is the sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual art ...
.
Finnish Sign Language Finnish Sign Language () is the sign language most commonly used in Finland. There are 3,000 ''(2012 estimate)'' Finnish deaf who have Finnish Sign Language as a first language. As the Finnish system records users by their written language, not ...
and
Portuguese Sign Language Portuguese Sign language () is a sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulati ...
derive from Swedish SL, though with local admixture in the case of mutually unintelligible Finnish SL. Danish SL has French SL influence and Wittmann (1991) places them in that family, though he proposes that Swedish, Finnish, and Portuguese SL are instead related to
British Sign Language British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language among the Deaf culture, Deaf community in the UK. Based on the percentage of people who reported 'using British Sign Languag ...
. *
Indian Sign Language Indo-Pakistani Sign Language (IPSL) is the predominant sign language in the subcontinent of South Asia, used by at least 15 million Deaf culture, deaf signers. As with many sign languages, it is difficult to estimate numbers with any certaint ...
ISL is similar to Pakistani Sign Language. (ISL fingerspelling uses both hands, similarly to British Sign Language.). *
Japanese Sign Language , also known by the acronym JSL, is the dominant sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through ...
,
Taiwanese Sign Language Taiwan Sign Language (TSL; ) is the sign language most commonly used by the deaf and hard of hearing in Taiwan. History The beginnings of Taiwan Sign Language date from 1895.Fischer, Susan ''et al.'' (2010). "Variation in East Asian Sign Langua ...
and Korean Sign Language are thought to be members of a
Japanese Sign Language family The Japanese Sign Language (JSL) family is a language family of three sign languages: Japanese Sign Language (JSL), Korean Sign Language (KSL), and Taiwanese Sign Language (TSL). There is little difficulty in communication between the three ...
. *
French Sign Language family The French Sign Language (LSF, from ''langue des signes française'') or Francosign family is a language family A language family is a group of languages related through Genetic relationship (linguistics), descent from a common ''ancestral l ...
. There are a number of sign languages that emerged from
French Sign Language French Sign Language (french: langue des signes française, LSF) is the sign language of the deaf in France and Romandy, French-speaking parts of Switzerland. According to ''Ethnologue'', it has 100,000 native signers. French Sign Language is ...
(LSF), or are the result of language contact between local community sign languages and LSF. These include:
French Sign Language French Sign Language (french: langue des signes française, LSF) is the sign language of the deaf in France and Romandy, French-speaking parts of Switzerland. According to ''Ethnologue'', it has 100,000 native signers. French Sign Language is ...
,
Italian Sign Language Italian Sign Language or LIS (''Lingua dei Segni Italiana'') is the visual language used by deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that precludes a ...
,
Quebec Sign Language Quebec Sign Language, known in French as Langue des signes québécoise or Langue des signes du Québec (LSQ), is the predominant sign language of deaf communities used in francophone Canada, primarily in Quebec. Although named Quebec sign, LSQ c ...
,
American Sign Language American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States of America and most of Anglophone Canada. ASL is a complete and organized visual language that is expres ...
,
Irish Sign Language Irish Sign Language (ISL, ga, Teanga Chomharthaíochta na hÉireann) is the sign language of Ireland, used primarily in the Republic of Ireland. It is also used in Northern Ireland, alongside British Sign Language (BSL). Irish Sign Language is ...
, Russian Sign Language,
Dutch Sign Language Dutch Sign Language ( nl, Nederlandse Gebarentaal or NGT; Sign Language of the Netherlands or SLN) is the predominant sign language used by deaf people in the Netherlands. Although the same spoken Dutch language is used in the Netherlands and ...
(NGT), Spanish Sign Language,
Mexican Sign Language Mexican Sign Language (''"Lengua de Señas Mexicana"'' or LSM, also previously known by several other names), is a natural language that serves as the predominant language of the Deaf culture, Deaf community in Mexico. LSM is a complete and orga ...
, Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS), Catalan Sign Language,
Ukrainian Sign Language Ukrainian Sign Language (USL) ( uk, Українська жестова мова (УЖМ)) is the sign language of the deaf community of Ukraine. Ukrainian Sign Language belongs to the French Sign Language family, family of French sign languages ...
, Austrian Sign Language (along with its twin Hungarian Sign Language and its offspring
Czech Sign Language Czech Sign Language is the sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in ...
) and others. ** A subset of this group includes languages that have been heavily influenced by American Sign Language (ASL), or are regional varieties of ASL. Bolivian Sign Language is sometimes considered a dialect of ASL. Thai Sign Language is a
mixed language A mixed language is a language that arises among a bilingual group combining aspects of two or more languages but not clearly deriving primarily from any single language. It differs from a creole language, creole or pidgin, pidgin language in that ...
derived from ASL and the native sign languages of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and may be considered part of the ASL family. Others possibly influenced by ASL include Ugandan Sign Language,
Kenyan Sign Language Kenyan ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"() , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Nairobi , coordinates = , largest_city = N ...
, Philippine Sign Language and
Malaysian Sign Language Malaysian Sign Language ( ms, Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia, or BIM) is the principal language of the deaf community of Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States a ...
. ** According to an SIL report, the sign languages of Russia, Moldova and Ukraine share a high degree of lexical similarity and may be dialects of one language, or distinct related languages. The same report suggested a "cluster" of sign languages centered around
Czech Sign Language Czech Sign Language is the sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in ...
, Hungarian Sign Language and Slovak Sign Language. This group may also include
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania **Romanians, an ethnic group **Romanian language, a Romance language ***Romanian dialects, variants of the Romanian language **Romanian cuisine, traditional ...
, Bulgarian, and Polish sign languages. *
German Sign Language German Sign Language or Deutsche Gebärdensprache (DGS), is the sign language of the deaf community in Germany, Luxembourg and in the German-speaking Community of Belgium, German-speaking community of Belgium. It is unclear how many use German Si ...
(DGS) gave rise to
Polish Sign Language Polish Sign Language ("Polski Język Migowy", PJM) is the language of the Deaf community in Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative provinces called Voivod ...
; it also at least strongly influenced
Israeli Sign Language Israeli Sign Language, also known as Shassi or ISL, is the most commonly used sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign lan ...
, though it is unclear whether the latter derives from DGS or from Austrian Sign Language, which is in the French family. * The southern dialect of Chinese Sign Language gave rise to
Hong Kong Sign Language Hong Kong Sign Language (香港手語), or HKSL, is the deaf sign language of Hong Kong and Macau. It derived from the southern dialect of Chinese Sign Language, but is now an independent, mutually unintelligible language. Origins The origin o ...
, spoken in Hong Kong and Macau * Lyons Sign Language may be the source of
Flemish Sign Language Flemish Sign Language ( nl, Vlaamse Gebarentaal, VGT) is a deaf sign language of Belgium. It is closely related to French Belgian Sign Language, but they are now generally recognized as distinct languages. VGT is estimated to include around 6,0 ...
(VGT) though this is unclear. * Sign languages of
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; Romanization of Arabic, tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; Romanization of Arabic, tr. ' is a country in Western Asia. It is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, within the Levan ...
, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq (and possibly
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a country in Western Asia. It covers the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and has a land area of about , making it the List of Asian countries by area, fifth-largest country in Asia ...
) may be part of a
sprachbund A sprachbund (, lit. "language federation"), also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, or diffusion area, is a group of languages that share areal features resulting from geographical proximity and language contact. The lang ...
, or may be one dialect of a larger Eastern Arabic Sign Language. * Known isolates include
Nicaraguan Sign Language Nicaraguan Sign Language (ISN; es, Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua) is a form of sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign ...
,
Turkish Sign Language Turkish Sign Language ( tr, Türk İşaret Dili, TİD) is the language used by the deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that precludes a person fr ...
, Armenian Sign Language,
Kata Kolok Kata Kolok (literally "deaf talk"), also known as Benkala Sign Language and Balinese Sign Language, is a village sign language which is indigenous to two neighbouring villages in northern Bali Bali () is a Provinces of Indonesia, provin ...
,
Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) is a village sign language used by about 150 deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that precludes a person f ...
and Providence Island Sign Language. The only comprehensive classification along these lines going beyond a simple listing of languages dates back to 1991. The classification is based on the 69 sign languages from the 1988 edition of
Ethnologue ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as ''Ethnoloɠue'') is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world. It is the world's most comprehensi ...
that were known at the time of the 1989 conference on sign languages in Montreal and 11 more languages the author added after the conference. In his classification, the author distinguishes between primary and auxiliary sign languages as well as between single languages and names that are thought to refer to more than one language. The prototype-A class of languages includes all those sign languages that seemingly cannot be derived from any other language.These are
Adamorobe Sign Language Adamorobe Sign Language or Adasl is a village sign language used in Adamorobe, an Akan Akan may refer to: People and languages *Akan people, an ethnic group in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire *Akan language, a language spoken by the Akan people *Kwa ...
, Armenian Sign Language,
Australian Aboriginal sign languages Many Australian Aboriginal Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples are culturally distinct ethnic groups whose members are directly descended from the earliest known inhabitants of a particular ...
, Hindu
mudra A mudra (; sa, मुद्रा, , "seal", "mark", or "gesture"; ,) is a symbolic or ritual gesture or pose in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. As wel ...
, the
Monastic sign languages Monastic sign languages have been used in Europe from at least the 10th century by Christians, Christian monks, and some, such as Cistercians, Cistercian and Trappists, Trappist sign, are still in use today—not only in Europe, but also in Japan ...
,
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was a village sign-language that was once widely used on the island of Martha's Vineyard Martha's Vineyard, often simply called the Vineyard, is an island in the Northeastern United States, located so ...
,
Plains Indian Sign Language Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), also known as Hand Talk, Plains Sign Talk, and First Nation Sign Language, is a trade language, formerly trade pidgin, that was once the lingua franca across what is now central Canada, the central and weste ...
, Urubú-Kaapor Sign Language, Chinese Sign Language,
Indo-Pakistani Sign Language Indo-Pakistani Sign Language (IPSL) is the predominant sign language in the subcontinent of South Asia, used by at least 15 million Deaf culture, deaf signers. As with many sign languages, it is difficult to estimate numbers with any certaint ...
(Pakistani SL is said to be R, but Indian SL to be A, though they are the same language),
Japanese Sign Language , also known by the acronym JSL, is the dominant sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through ...
, and maybe the various Thai Hill-Country sign languages,
French Sign Language French Sign Language (french: langue des signes française, LSF) is the sign language of the deaf in France and Romandy, French-speaking parts of Switzerland. According to ''Ethnologue'', it has 100,000 native signers. French Sign Language is ...
, Lyons Sign Language, and Nohya Maya Sign Language. Wittmann also includes, bizarrely, Chinese characters and Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Prototype-R languages are languages that are remotely modelled on a prototype-A language (in many cases thought to have been French Sign Language) by a process Kroeber (1940) called "
stimulus diffusion In cultural anthropology and cultural geography, cultural diffusion, as conceptualized by Leo Frobenius in his 1897/98 publication ''Der westafrikanische Kulturkreis'', is the spread of culture, cultural items—such as ideas, fashion, styles, rel ...
".These are
Providencia Island Isla de Providencia, historically Old Providence, and generally known as Providencia, is a mountainous Caribbean island that is part of the Colombian department of Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina and the municipality ...
, Kod Tangan Bahasa Malaysia (manually signed Malay), German, Ecuadoran,
Salvadoran Salvadorans (Spanish language, Spanish: ''Salvadoreños''), also known as Salvadorians (alternate spelling: Salvadoreans), are citizens of El Salvador, a country in Central America. Most Salvadorans live in El Salvador, although there is also a s ...
, Gestuno, Indo-Pakistani (Pakistani SL is said to be R, but Indian SL to be A, though they are the same language),
Kenyan ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"() , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Nairobi , coordinates = , largest_city = Nairobi , ...
, Brazilian,
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Cana ...
,
Nepali Nepali or Nepalese may refer to : Concerning Nepal * Anything of, from, or related to Nepal Nepal (; ne, :ne:नेपाल, नेपाल ), formerly the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal ( ne, सङ्घीय लोकत ...
(with possible admixture),
Penang Penang ( ms, Pulau Pinang, is a States and federal territories of Malaysia, Malaysian state located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Strait of Malacca, Malacca Strait. It has two parts: Penang Island, where the capital ci ...
, Rennellese, Saudi, the various Sri Lankan sign languages, and perhaps BSL,
Peruvian Peruvians ( es, peruanos) are the citizens of Peru. There were Andean and coastal ancient civilizations like Caral, which inhabited what is now Peruvian territory for several millennia before the Spanish conquest of Peru, Spanish conquest in th ...
,
Tijuana Tijuana ( ,"Tijuana"
(US) and
< ...
(spurious),
Venezuelan Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continental landmass and many Federal Dependencies of V ...
, and
Nicaraguan Nicaragua (; ), officially the Republic of Nicaragua (), is the largest Sovereign state, country in Central America, bordered by Honduras to the north, the Caribbean Sea, Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to ...
sign languages.
The families of BSL, DGS, JSL, LSF (and possibly LSG) were the products of
creolization Creolization is the process through which creole languages and cultures emerge. Creolization was first used by linguists to explain how Language contact, contact languages become Creole language, creole languages, but now scholars in other social s ...
and
relexification In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and str ...
of prototype languages. Creolization is seen as enriching overt morphology in sign languages, as compared to reducing overt morphology in spoken languages.


Typology

Linguistic typology (going back to
Edward Sapir Edward Sapir (; January 26, 1884 – February 4, 1939) was an American Jewish anthropologist-linguistics, linguist, who is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in the development of the discipline of linguistics in the United ...
) is based on word structure and distinguishes morphological classes such as
agglutinating An agglutinative language is a type of synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection or agglutination to express Syntax, syntactic relationships within a sentence. Inflection is the addition of morphemes to a root word that assigns g ...
/concatenating, inflectional, polysynthetic, incorporating, and isolating ones. Sign languages vary in word-order typology. For example, Austrian Sign Language,
Japanese Sign Language , also known by the acronym JSL, is the dominant sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through ...
and
Indo-Pakistani Sign Language Indo-Pakistani Sign Language (IPSL) is the predominant sign language in the subcontinent of South Asia, used by at least 15 million Deaf culture, deaf signers. As with many sign languages, it is difficult to estimate numbers with any certaint ...
are Subject-object-verb while ASL is Subject-verb-object. Influence from the surrounding spoken languages is not improbable. Sign languages tend to be incorporating classifier languages, where a classifier handshape representing the object is incorporated into those transitive verbs which allow such modification. For a similar group of intransitive verbs (especially motion verbs), it is the subject which is incorporated. Only in a very few sign languages (for instance
Japanese Sign Language , also known by the acronym JSL, is the dominant sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through ...
) are agents ever incorporated. In this way, since subjects of intransitives are treated similarly to objects of transitives, incorporation in sign languages can be said to follow an ergative pattern. BrentariBrentari, Diane (1998) ''A prosodic model of sign language phonology''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press classifies sign languages as a whole group determined by the medium of communication (visual instead of auditory) as one group with the features monosyllabic and polymorphemic. That means, that one syllable (i.e. one word, one sign) can express several morphemes, e.g., subject and object of a verb determine the direction of the verb's movement (inflection). Another aspect of typology that has been studied in sign languages is their systems for
cardinal numbers In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are a generalization of the natural numbers used to measure the cardinality (size) of Set (mathematics), sets. The cardinality of a finite set is a natural number: the number of elemen ...
. Typologically significant differences have been found between sign languages.


Acquisition

Children who are exposed to a sign language from birth will acquire it, just as hearing children acquire their native spoken language. The Critical Period hypothesis suggests that language, spoken or signed, is more easily acquired as a child at a young age versus an adult because of the
plasticity Plasticity may refer to: Science * Plasticity (physics), in engineering and physics, the propensity of a solid material to undergo permanent deformation under load * Neuroplasticity, in neuroscience, how entire brain structures, and the brain ...
of the child's brain. In a study done at the University of McGill, they found that American Sign Language users who acquired the language natively (from birth) performed better when asked to copy videos of ASL sentences than ASL users who acquired the language later in life. They also found that there are differences in the grammatical morphology of ASL sentences between the two groups, all suggesting that there is a very important critical period in learning signed languages. The acquisition of non-manual features follows an interesting pattern: When a word that always has a particular non-manual feature associated with it (such as a
wh-question A question is an utterance which serves as a request for information. Questions are sometimes distinguished from interrogatives, which are the grammatical forms typically used to express them. Rhetorical questions, for instance, are interroga ...
word) is learned, the non-manual aspects are attached to the word but don't have the flexibility associated with adult use. At a certain point, the non-manual features are dropped and the word is produced with no facial expression. After a few months, the non-manuals reappear, this time being used the way adult signers would use them.


Written forms

Sign languages do not have a traditional or formal written form. Many deaf people do not see a need to write their own language. Several ways to represent sign languages in written form have been developed. *
Stokoe notation Stokoe notation () is the first phonemic In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of Englis ...
, devised by Dr.
William Stokoe William C. Stokoe Jr. ( ; July 21, 1919 – April 4, 2000) was an American linguist and a long-time professor at Gallaudet University. His research on American Sign Language (ASL) revolutionized the understanding of ASL in the United States and s ...
for his 1965 ''Dictionary of American Sign Language'',Stokoe, William C.; Dorothy C. Casterline; Carl G. Croneberg. 1965. ''A dictionary of American sign language on linguistic principles''. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet College Press is an abstract
phonemic In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West M ...
notation system. Designed specifically for representing the use of the hands, it has no way of expressing facial expression or other non-manual features of sign languages. However, his was designed for research, particularly in a dictionary, not for general use. * The
Hamburg Notation System The Hamburg Sign Language Notation System, or HamNoSys, is a transcription system for all sign languages, not only for ASL, with a direct correspondence between symbols and gesture aspects, such as hand location, shape and movement. It was develope ...
(HamNoSys), developed in the early 1990s, is a detailed phonetic system, not designed for any one sign language, and intended as a transcription system for researchers rather than as a practical script. * David J. Peterson has attempted to create a phonetic transcription system for signing that is
ASCII ASCII ( ), abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for electronic communication. ASCII codes represent text in computers, telecommunications equipment, and other devices. Because of ...
-friendly known as th
Sign Language International Phonetic Alphabet (SLIPA)
*
SignWriting Sutton SignWriting, or simply SignWriting, is a system of Sign language#Written forms, writing sign languages. It is highly featural alphabet, featural and visually iconic, both in the shapes of the characters, which are abstract pictures of the ...
, developed by Valerie Sutton in 1974, is a system for representing sign languages phonetically (including
mouthing In sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in combination with non-man ...
, facial expression and dynamics of movement). The script is sometimes used for detailed research, language documentation, as well as publishing texts and works in sign languages. *
si5s si5s is a writing system for American Sign Language that resembles a handwritten form of SignWriting. It was devised in 2003 in New York City New York, often called New York City or NYC, is the List of United Sta ...
is another orthography which is largely phonemic. However, a few signs are logographs and/or
ideograph An ideogram or ideograph (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek l ...
s due to regional variation in sign languages. *
ASL-phabet ASL-phabet, or the ASL Alphabet, is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, spee ...
is a system designed primarily for education of deaf children by Dr. Sam Supalla which uses a minimalist collection of symbols in the order of Handshape-Location-Movement. Many signs can be written the same way (
homograph A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a word that shares the same written form as another word but has a different meaning. However, some dictionaries insist that the words must also ...
). *The Alphabetic Writing System for sign languages (, SEA, by its Spanish name and acronym), developed by linguist Ángel Herrero Blanco and two deaf researchers, Juan José Alfaro and Inmacualada Cascales, was published as a book in 2003 and made accessible in Spanish Sign Language on-line. This system makes use of the letters of the Latin alphabet with a few diacritics to represent sign through the morphemic sequence S L C Q D F (bimanual sign, place, contact, handshape, direction and internal form). The resulting words are meant to be read by signing. The system is designed to be applicable to any sign language with minimal modification and to be usable through any medium without special equipment or software. Non-manual elements can be encoded to some extent, but the authors argue that the system does not need to represent all elements of a sign to be practical, the same way written oral language doesn't. The system has seen some updates which are kept publicly on a wiki page. The Center for Linguistic Normalization of Spanish Sign Language has made use of SEA to transcribe all signs on its dictionary. So far, there is no consensus regarding the written form of sign language. Except for SignWriting, none are widely used. Maria Galea writes that SignWriting "is becoming widespread, uncontainable and untraceable. In the same way that works written in and about a well developed writing system such as the Latin script, the time has arrived where SW is so widespread, that it is impossible in the same way to list all works that have been produced using this writing system and that have been written about this writing system." In 2015, the
Federal University of Santa Catarina The Federal University of Santa Catarina ( pt, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, UFSC) is a public university in Florianópolis, the capital city of Santa Catarina (Brazil), Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. Considered one of the leading ...
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 on-manual expressionsusage in writing sign language".


Sign perception

For a native signer,
sign A sign is an Physical object, object, quality (philosophy), quality, event, or Non-physical entity, entity whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else. A natural sign bears a causal relation to ...
perception Perception () is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or environment. All perception involves signals that go through the nervous syste ...
influences how the mind makes sense of their visual language experience. For example, a handshape may vary based on the other signs made before or after it, but these variations are arranged in perceptual categories during its development. The mind detects handshape contrasts but groups similar handshapes together in one category. Different handshapes are stored in other categories. The mind ignores some of the similarities between different perceptual categories, at the same time preserving the visual information within each perceptual category of handshape variation.


In society


Deaf communities and Deaf culture

When Deaf people constitute a relatively small proportion of the general population, Deaf communities often develop that are distinct from the surrounding hearing community. These Deaf communities are very widespread in the world, associated especially with sign languages used in urban areas and throughout a nation, and the cultures they have developed are very rich. One example of sign language variation in the Deaf community is Black ASL. This sign language was developed in the Black Deaf community as a variant during the American era of segregation and racism, where young Black Deaf students were forced to attend separate schools than their white Deaf peers.


Use of sign languages in hearing communities

On occasion, where the prevalence of deaf people is high enough, a deaf sign language has been taken up by an entire local community, forming what is sometimes called a "village sign language" or "shared signing community". Typically this happens in small, tightly integrated communities with a closed gene pool. Famous examples include: *
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was a village sign-language that was once widely used on the island of Martha's Vineyard Martha's Vineyard, often simply called the Vineyard, is an island in the Northeastern United States, located so ...
,
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
*
Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) is a village sign language used by about 150 deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that precludes a person f ...
,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
*
Kata Kolok Kata Kolok (literally "deaf talk"), also known as Benkala Sign Language and Balinese Sign Language, is a village sign language which is indigenous to two neighbouring villages in northern Bali Bali () is a Provinces of Indonesia, provin ...
,
Bali Bali () is a Provinces of Indonesia, province of Indonesia and the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. East of Java and west of Lombok, the province includes the island of Bali and a few smaller neighbouring islands, notably Nusa Penida, ...
*
Adamorobe Sign Language Adamorobe Sign Language or Adasl is a village sign language used in Adamorobe, an Akan Akan may refer to: People and languages *Akan people, an ethnic group in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire *Akan language, a language spoken by the Akan people *Kwa ...
,
Ghana Ghana (; tw, Gaana, ee, Gana), officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country in West Africa. It abuts the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, sharing borders with Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, and ...
* Yucatec Maya Sign Language,
Mexico Mexico (Spanish language, Spanish: México), officially the United Mexican States, is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; to the so ...
In such communities deaf people are generally well-integrated in the general community and not socially disadvantaged, so much so that it is difficult to speak of a separate "Deaf" community. Many
Australian Aboriginal sign languages Many Australian Aboriginal Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples are culturally distinct ethnic groups whose members are directly descended from the earliest known inhabitants of a particular ...
arose in a context of extensive speech taboos, such as during mourning and initiation rites. They are or were especially highly developed among the Warlpiri, Warumungu, Dieri, Kaytetye,
Arrernte Arrernte (also spelt Aranda, etc.) is a descriptor related to a group of Aboriginal Australian Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mainland and many of its islands, such as Tasmani ...
, and Warlmanpa, and are based on their respective spoken languages. A sign language arose among tribes of American Indians in the
Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a broad expanse of plain, flatland in North America. It is located west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, much of it covered in prairie, step ...
region of
North America North America is a continent in the Northern Hemisphere and almost entirely within the Western Hemisphere. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the southeast by South America and the Car ...
(see
Plains Indian Sign Language Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), also known as Hand Talk, Plains Sign Talk, and First Nation Sign Language, is a trade language, formerly trade pidgin, that was once the lingua franca across what is now central Canada, the central and weste ...
) before European contact. It was used by hearing people to communicate among tribes with different spoken
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of met ...
s, as well as by deaf people. There are especially users today among the
Crow A crow is a bird of the genus ''Corvus'', or more broadly a synonym for all of ''Corvus''. Crows are generally black in colour. The word "crow" is used as part of the common name of many species. The related term "raven" is not pinned scientifical ...
,
Cheyenne The Cheyenne ( ) are an Indigenous people of the Great Plains. Their Cheyenne language belongs to the Algonquian languages, Algonquian language family. Today, the Cheyenne people are split into two federally recognized tribe, federally recognize ...
, and
Arapaho The Arapaho (; french: Arapahos, ) are a Native Americans in the United States, Native American people historically living on the plains of Colorado and Wyoming. They were close allies of the Cheyenne tribe and loosely aligned with the Lakota p ...
. Sign language is also used as a form of alternative or augmentative communication by people who can hear but have difficulties using their voices to speak. Increasingly, hearing schools and universities are expressing interest in incorporating sign language. In the U.S., enrollment for ASL (American Sign Language) classes as part of students' choice of second language is on the rise. In New Zealand, one year after the passing of NZSL Act 2006 in parliament, a NZSL curriculum was released for schools to take NZSL as an optional subject. The curriculum and teaching materials were designed to target intermediate schools from Years 7 to 10,
NZ Herald
2007).


Legal recognition

Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all. Sarah Batterbury has argued that sign languages should be recognized and supported not merely as an accommodation for those with disabilities, but as the communication medium of language communities. Legal requirements covering sign language accessibility in media vary from country to country. In the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
, the Broadcasting Act 1996 addressed the requirements for blind and deaf viewers, but has since been replaced by the
Communications Act 2003 The Communications Act 2003 is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The act, which came into force on 25 July 2003, superseded the Telecommunications Act 1984. The new act was the responsibility of Secretary of Stat ...
.


Interpretation

In order to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people, sign language interpreters are often used. Such activities involve considerable effort on the part of the interpreter, since sign languages are distinct
natural language In neuropsychology, linguistics, and philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has linguistic evolution, evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditati ...
s with their own
syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the study of how words and morphemes combine to form larger units such as phrases and sentence (linguistics), sentences. Central concerns of syntax include word order, grammatical relations, hierarchical sentence st ...
, different from any spoken language. The interpretation flow is normally between a sign language and a spoken language that are customarily used in the same country, such as
French Sign Language French Sign Language (french: langue des signes française, LSF) is the sign language of the deaf in France and Romandy, French-speaking parts of Switzerland. According to ''Ethnologue'', it has 100,000 native signers. French Sign Language is ...
(LSF) and spoken French in France, Spanish Sign Language (LSE) to spoken Spanish in Spain,
British Sign Language British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language among the Deaf culture, Deaf community in the UK. Based on the percentage of people who reported 'using British Sign Languag ...
(BSL) and spoken English in the U.K., and
American Sign Language American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States of America and most of Anglophone Canada. ASL is a complete and organized visual language that is expres ...
(ASL) and spoken English in the U.S. and most of anglophone Canada (since BSL and ASL are distinct sign languages both used in English-speaking countries), etc. Sign language interpreters who can translate between signed and spoken languages that are not normally paired (such as between LSE and English), are also available, albeit less frequently. Sign language is sometimes provided for
television program Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication Media (communication), medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term can refer to a television set, or the medium of Transmission (telecommunications), television tra ...
mes that include speech. The signer usually appears in the bottom corner of the screen, with the programme being
broadcast Broadcasting is the distribution (business), distribution of sound, audio or video content to a dispersed audience via any electronic medium (communication), mass communications medium, but typically one using the electromagnetic spectrum (radio ...
full size or slightly shrunk away from that corner. Typically for
press conference A press conference or news conference is a media event in which notable individuals or organizations invite journalist A journalist is an individual that collects/gathers information in form of text, audio, or pictures, processes them into ...
s such as those given by the
Mayor of New York City The mayor of New York City, officially Mayor of the City of New York, is head of the executive branch of the government of New York City and the chief executive of New York City. The Mayoralty in the United States, mayor's office administers al ...
, the signer appears to stage left or right of the public official to allow both the speaker and signer to be in frame at the same time. Live sign interpretation of important televised events is increasingly common but still an informal industry In traditional analogue broadcasting, some programmes are repeated outside main viewing hours with a signer present. Some emerging
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term can refer to a television set, or the medium of Transmission (telecommunications), television transmission. Television ...
technologies allow the viewer to turn the signer on and off in a similar manner to
subtitles Subtitles and captions are lines of dialogue or other Writing, text displayed at the bottom of the screen in films, television programs, video games or other visual media. They can be transcriptions of the screenplay, translations of it, or ...
and
closed captioning Closed captioning (CC) and Subtitle (captioning), subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information. Both are typically used as a transcri ...
.


Technology

One of the first demonstrations of the ability for
telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio, Optical system, optical, or other Electromagnetism, electromagnetic systems. It has its origin in the desire of humans for communication ov ...
s to help sign language users communicate with each other occurred when
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational corporation, multinational telecommunications holding company headquartered at Whitacre Tower in Downtown Dallas, Texas. It is the world's List of largest companies by revenue, largest telecommunications ...
's
videophone Videotelephony, also known as videoconferencing and video teleconferencing, is the two-way or multipoint reception and transmission of audio signal, audio and video signals by people in different locations for Real-time, real time communication. ...
(trademarked as the Picturephone) was introduced to the public at the
1964 New York World's Fair The 1964–1965 New York World's Fair was a world's fair that held over 140 pavilions and 110 restaurants, representing 80 nations (hosted by 37), 24 US states, and over 45 corporations with the goal and the final result of building exhibits or ...
 – two deaf users were able to freely communicate with each other between the fair and another city.Bell Laboratories RECORD (1969
A collection of several articles on the AT&T Picturephone
(then about to be released) Bell Laboratories, Pg.134–153 & 160–187, Volume 47, No. 5, May/June 1969;
However, video communication did not become widely available until sufficient bandwidth for the high volume of video data became available in the early 2000s. The Internet now allows deaf people to talk via a
video link Videotelephony, also known as videoconferencing and video teleconferencing, is the two-way or multipoint reception and transmission of audio signal, audio and video signals by people in different locations for Real-time, real time communication. ...
, either with a special-purpose
videophone Videotelephony, also known as videoconferencing and video teleconferencing, is the two-way or multipoint reception and transmission of audio signal, audio and video signals by people in different locations for Real-time, real time communication. ...
designed for use with sign language or with "off-the-shelf" video services designed for use with broadband and an ordinary computer
webcam A webcam is a video camera which is designed to record or stream to a computer or computer network. They are primarily used in videotelephony, livestreaming and social media, and Closed-circuit television, security. Webcams can be built-in compute ...
. The special videophones that are designed for sign language communication may provide better quality than 'off-the-shelf' services and may use data compression methods specifically designed to maximize the intelligibility of sign languages. Some advanced equipment enables a person to remotely control the other person's video camera, in order to zoom in and out or to point the camera better to understand the signing. Interpreters may be physically present with both parties to the conversation but, since the technological advancements in the early 2000s, provision of interpreters in remote locations has become available. In video remote interpreting (VRI), the two clients (a sign language user and a hearing person who wish to communicate with each other) are in one location, and the interpreter is in another. The interpreter communicates with the sign language user via a video telecommunications link, and with the hearing person by an audio link. VRI can be used for situations in which no on-site interpreters are available. However, VRI cannot be used for situations in which all parties are speaking via telephone alone. With video relay service (VRS), the sign language user, the interpreter, and the hearing person are in three separate locations, thus allowing the two clients to talk to each other on the phone through the interpreter. With recent developments in
artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence—perceiving, synthesizing, and inferring information—demonstrated by machines, as opposed to intelligence displayed by animal cognition, animals and human intelligence, humans. Example tasks in ...
in
computer science Computer science is the study of computation, automation, and information. Computer science spans theoretical disciplines (such as algorithms, theory of computation, information theory, and automation) to Applied science, practical discipli ...
, some recent deep learning based machine translation algorithms have been developed which automatically translate short videos containing sign language sentences (often simple sentence consists of only one clause) directly to written language.


Sign Union flag

The Sign Union flag was designed by Arnaud Balard. After studying flags around the world and
vexillology Vexillology ( ) is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general.Smith, Whitney. ''Flags Through the Ages and Across the World'' New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975. Print. The word is a synthe ...
principles for two years, Balard revealed the design of the flag, featuring the stylized outline of a hand. The three colors which make up the flag design are representative of Deafhood and humanity (dark blue), sign language (turquoise), and enlightenment and hope (yellow). Balard intended the flag to be an international symbol which welcomes deaf people.


Language endangerment and extinction

As with any spoken language, sign languages are also vulnerable to becoming
endangered An endangered species is a species that is very likely to become extinct in the near future, either worldwide or in a particular political jurisdiction. Endangered species may be at risk due to factors such as habitat loss, poaching and invas ...
. For example, a sign language used by a small community may be endangered and even abandoned as users shift to a sign language used by a larger community, as has happened with Hawai'i Sign Language, which is almost extinct except for a few elderly signers. Even nationally recognised sign languages can be endangered; for example, New Zealand Sign Language is losing users. Methods are being developed to assess the language vitality of sign languages. ;Endangered sign languages: *
Adamorobe Sign Language Adamorobe Sign Language or Adasl is a village sign language used in Adamorobe, an Akan Akan may refer to: People and languages *Akan people, an ethnic group in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire *Akan language, a language spoken by the Akan people *Kwa ...
(AdaSL) *
Ban Khor Sign Language Ban Khor Sign Language (BKSL) is a village sign language used by at least 400 people of a rice-farming community in the village of Ban Khor in a remote area of Isan Northeast Thailand or Isan (Isan language, Isan/ th, อีสาน, ; ...
(BKSL) * Benkala Sign Language (KK) * Finland-Swedish Sign Language (FinSSL) * Hawai'i Sign Language (HPSL) *
Inuit Sign Language Inuit Sign Language (IUR, Inuktitut language, Inuktitut: ᐆᒃᑐᕋᐅᓯᖏᑦ or Atgangmuurngniq ᐊᑦᒐᖕᒨᕐᖕᓂᖅ) is an indigenous sign language. It is a language isolate native to Inuit communities in the Northern Canada, Can ...
(IUR) * Jamaican Country Sign Language (KS) * Maritime Sign Language (MSL) * Old Bangkok Sign Language (OBSL) * Old Chiangmai Sign Language (OCSL) *
Plains Indian Sign Language Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), also known as Hand Talk, Plains Sign Talk, and First Nation Sign Language, is a trade language, formerly trade pidgin, that was once the lingua franca across what is now central Canada, the central and weste ...
(PISL) * Providencia Sign Language (PSL) * Rennellese Sign Language (RSL) ;Extinct sign languages: * Angami Naga Sign Language * Belgian Sign Language (BGT) * Henniker Sign Language *
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was a village sign-language that was once widely used on the island of Martha's Vineyard Martha's Vineyard, often simply called the Vineyard, is an island in the Northeastern United States, located so ...
(MVSL) * Ngarrindjeri sign language *
Old French Sign Language Old French Sign Language (french: Vieille langue des signes française, often abbreviated as VLSF) was the language of the deaf community in 18th-century Paris at the time of the establishment of the first deaf schools. The earliest records of ...
(VLSF) * Old Kentish Sign Language (OKSL) * Pitta Pitta sign language * Plateau Sign Language * Sandy River Valley Sign Language * Warluwarra sign language


Communication systems similar to sign language

There are a number of communication systems that are similar in some respects to sign languages, while not having all the characteristics of a full sign language, particularly its grammatical structure. Many of these are either precursors to natural sign languages or are derived from them.


Manual codes for spoken languages

When Deaf and Hearing people interact, signing systems may be developed that use signs drawn from a natural sign language but used according to the grammar of the spoken language. In particular, when people devise one-for-one sign-for-word correspondences between spoken words (or even
morphemes A morpheme is the smallest meaningful constituent of a linguistic expression. The field of linguistic study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. In English, morphemes are often but not necessarily words A word is a basic elem ...
) and signs that represent them, the system that results is a manual code for a spoken language, rather than a natural sign language. Such systems may be invented in an attempt to help teach Deaf children the spoken language, and generally are not used outside an educational context.


"Baby sign language" with hearing children

Some hearing parents teach signs to young hearing children. Since the muscles in babies' hands grow and develop quicker than their mouths, signs are seen as a beneficial option for better communication. Babies can usually produce signs before they can speak. This reduces the confusion between parents when trying to figure out what their child wants. When the child begins to speak, signing is usually abandoned, so the child does not progress to acquiring the grammar of the sign language. This is in contrast to hearing children who grow up with Deaf parents, who generally acquire the full sign language natively, the same as Deaf children of Deaf parents.


Home sign

Informal, rudimentary sign systems are sometimes developed within a single family. For instance, when hearing parents with no sign language skills have a deaf child, the child may develop a system of signs naturally, unless repressed by the parents. The term for these mini-languages is
home sign Home sign (or kitchen sign) is a gestural communication system, often invented spontaneously by a deaf Deafness has varying definitions in cultural and medical contexts. In medical contexts, the meaning of deafness is hearing loss that preclude ...
(sometimes "kitchen sign"). Home sign arises due to the absence of any other way to communicate. Within the span of a single lifetime and without the support or feedback of a community, the child naturally invents signs to help meet his or her communication needs, and may even develop a few grammatical rules for combining short sequences of signs. Still, this kind of system is inadequate for the intellectual development of a child and it comes nowhere near meeting the standards linguists use to describe a complete language. No type of home sign is recognized as a full language.


Primate use

There have been several notable examples of scientists teaching signs to non-human
primate Primates are a diverse order (biology), order of mammals. They are divided into the Strepsirrhini, strepsirrhines, which include the lemurs, galagos, and lorisids, and the Haplorhini, haplorhines, which include the Tarsiiformes, tarsiers and ...
s in order to communicate with
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedality, bipedalism and exceptional cognitive skills due to a large and complex Human brain, brain. This has enabled the development of ad ...
s, such as
chimpanzee The chimpanzee (''Pan troglodytes''), also known as simply the chimp, is a species of great ape native to the forest and savannah of tropical Africa Although tropical Africa is mostly familiar to the Western world, West for its rainfore ...
s,Plooij, F.X. (1978) "Some basic traits of language in wild chimpanzees?" in A. Lock (ed.) ''Action, Gesture and Symbol'' New York: Academic Press.Gardner, R.A., Gardner, B.T., and Van Cantfort, T.E. (1989), ''Teaching Sign Language to Chimpanzees'', Albany: SUNY Press.Terrace, H.S. (1979). ''Nim: A chimpanzee who learned Sign Language'' New York: Knopf.
gorilla Gorillas are herbivorous, predominantly ground-dwelling great apes that inhabit the tropical forests of equatorial Africa. The genus ''Gorilla'' is divided into two species: the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla, and either four or fi ...
sPatterson, F.G. and Linden E. (1981), ''The education of Koko'', New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston and
orangutan Orangutans are Hominidae, great apes native to the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. They are now found only in parts of Borneo and Sumatra, but during the Pleistocene they ranged throughout Southeast Asia and South China. Classified in ...
s.Miles, H.L. (1990) "The cognitive foundations for reference in a signing orangutan" in S.T. Parker and K.R. Gibson (eds.) ''"Language" and intelligence in monkeys and apes'': Comparative Developmental Perspectives. Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 511–539. . However, linguists generally point out that this does not constitute knowledge of a human ''language'' as a complete system, rather than simply signs/words. Notable examples of animals who have learned signs include: * Chimpanzees: Washoe,
Nim Chimpsky Neam "Nim" Chimpsky (November 19, 1973 – March 10, 2000) was a chimpanzee The chimpanzee (''Pan troglodytes''), also known as simply the chimp, is a species of great ape native to the forest and savannah of tropical Africa Although t ...
and Loulis * Gorillas: Koko and Michael


Gestural theory of human language origins

One theory of the evolution of human language states that it developed first as a gestural system, which later shifted to speech. An important question for this gestural theory is what caused the shift to vocalization.Blondin-Massé, Alexandre; Harnad, Stevan; Picard, Olivier; and St-Louis, Bernard (2013
Symbol Grounding and the Origin of Language: From Show to Tell
In, Lefebvre, Claire; Cohen, Henri; and Comrie, Bernard (eds.) ''New Perspectives on the Origins of Language.'' Benjamin


See also

*
Animal language Animal languages are forms of non-human animal communication that show similarities to human language. Animals communicate through a variety of signs, such as sounds or movements. Sign language, Signing among animals may be considered complex enoug ...
*
Body language Body language is a type of communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information. Such behavior includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space. The ...
*
Braille Braille (Pronounced: ) is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired, including people who are Blindness, blind, Deafblindness, deafblind or who have low vision. It can be read either on Paper embossing, embossed paper ...
*
Fingerspelling Fingerspelling (or dactylology) is the representation of the letter (alphabet), letters of a writing system, and sometimes numeral systems, using only the hands. These manual alphabets (also known as finger alphabets or hand alphabets) have often ...
*
Chereme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West M ...
*
Chinese number gestures Chinese number gestures are a method to signify the natural numbers one through ten using one hand. This method may have been developed to bridge the many varieties of Chinese—for example, the numbers 4 () and 10 () are hard to distinguish ...
*
Gang signal A gang signal, also known as a gang sign, is a verbal or visual way gang members identify their affiliation. This can take many forms including slogans, hand signs, gang colors, colored clothing and graffiti. The wearer usually favors, or is i ...
*
Gestures A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages, either in place of, or in conjunction with, speech. Gestures include movement of the hands, face, or ot ...
*
Intercultural competence Cultural competence, also known as intercultural competence, is a range of cognitive, affective, and behavioural skills that lead to effective and appropriate communication with people of other cultures.Deardorff, D. K. (2009). ''The Sage handbook ...
*
International Sign International Sign (IS) is a pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and gra ...
* Legal recognition of sign languages * List of international common standards * List of sign languages * List of sign languages by number of native signers *
Manual communication Manual communication systems use articulation of the hands (hand signs, gestures, etc.) to mediate a message between persons. Being expressed manually, they are received visually and sometimes tactile signing, tactually. When it is the primary f ...
*
Metacommunicative competence Meta-communication is a secondary communication (including indirect cues) about About may refer to: * About (surname) * About.com, an online source for original information and advice * about.me, a personal web hosting service * ''abOUT'', a Can ...
* Modern Sign Language communication *
Origin of language The origin of language (spoken and signed, as well as language-related technological systems such as writing), its relationship with human evolution, and its consequences have been subjects of study for centuries. Scholars wishing to study th ...
*
Origin of speech The origin of speech refers to the general problem of the origin of language in the context of the physiological development of the human speech organs such as the tongue, lips, and Place of articulation, vocal organs used to produce Phoneme, p ...
* Sign language glove *
Sign language in infants and toddlers Baby sign language is the use of manual signing allowing infant An infant or baby is the very young offspring of human beings. ''Infant'' (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is a formal or specialised ...
* Sign language media * '' Sign Language Studies'' (journal) *
Sign name In deaf culture and sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in combi ...
* Sociolinguistics of sign languages *
Tactile signing Tactile signing is a common means of communication used by people with deafblindness. It is based on a sign language or another system of manual communication. "Tactile signing" refers to the mode or medium, i.e. signing (using some form of signe ...
* Machine translation of sign languages


References


Bibliography

* * Branson, J., D. Miller, & I G. Marsaja. (1996). "Everyone here speaks sign language, too: a deaf village in Bali, Indonesia." In: C. Lucas (ed.): Multicultural aspects of sociolinguistics in deaf communities. Washington, Gallaudet University Press, pp. 39+ * Deuchar, Margaret (1987). "Sign languages as creoles and Chomsky's notion of Universal Grammar." ''Essays in honor of Noam Chomsky'', 81–91. New York: Falmer. * Emmorey, Karen; & Lane, Harlan L. (Eds.). (2000). ''The signs of language revisited: An anthology to honor Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima''. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. . * Fischer, Susan D. (1974). "Sign language and linguistic universals." ''Actes du Colloque franco-allemand de grammaire générative'', 2.187–204. Tübingen: Niemeyer. * * Goldin-Meadow, Susan (2003), ''The Resilience of Language: What Gesture Creation in Deaf Children Can Tell Us About How All Children Learn Language'', Psychology Press, a subsidiary of Taylor & Francis, New York, 2003 * Gordon, Raymond, ed. (2008). ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'', 15th edition.
SIL International SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) is an evangelical Christian non-profit organization whose main purpose is to study, develop and document languages, especially those that are lesser-known, in order to ex ...
, . Sections for primary sign language
Browse by Language Family
and alternative one
Browse by Language Family
* Groce, Nora E. (1988). ''Everyone here spoke sign language: Hereditary deafness on Martha's Vineyard''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. . * Healy, Alice F. (1980). "Can Chimpanzees learn a phonemic language?" In: Sebeok, Thomas A. & Jean Umiker-Sebeok, eds, Speaking of apes: a critical anthology of two-way communication with man. New York: Plenum, 141–43. * Kamei, Nobutaka (2004). ''The Sign Languages of Africa'', "Journal of African Studies" (Japan Association for African Studies) Vol. 64, March, 2004. OTE: Kamei lists 23 African sign languages in this article * * Kegl, Judy, Senghas A., Coppola M (1999). "Creation through contact: Sign language emergence and sign language change in Nicaragua." In: M. DeGraff (ed.), ''Comparative Grammatical Change: The Intersection of Language Acquisition, Creole Genesis, and Diachronic Syntax'', pp. 179–237. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. * Kegl, Judy (2004). "Language Emergence in a Language-Ready Brain: Acquisition Issues." In: Jenkins, Lyle (ed.), ''Biolinguistics and the Evolution of Language''. John Benjamins. * Kendon, Adam. (1988). ''Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia: Cultural, Semiotic and Communicative Perspectives.'' Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. * * Lane, Harlan L. (Ed.). (1984). ''The Deaf experience: Classics in language and education''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. . * Lane, Harlan L. (1984). ''When the mind hears: A history of the deaf''. New York: Random House. . * Madell, Samantha (1998). ''Warlpiri Sign Language and Auslan – A Comparison''. M.A. Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. * Madsen, Willard J. (1982), ''Intermediate Conversational Sign Language''. Gallaudet University Press. . * O'Reilly, S. (2005). ''Indigenous Sign Language and Culture; the interpreting and access needs of Deaf people who are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Far North Queensland''. Sponsored by ASLIA, the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association. * Padden, Carol; & Humphries, Tom. (1988). ''Deaf in America: Voices from a culture''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. . * Pfau, Roland, Markus Steinbach & Bencie Woll (eds.), ''Sign language. An international handbook (HSK – Handbooks of linguistics and communication science).'' Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. * Poizner, Howard; Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1987). ''What the hands reveal about the brain''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Premack, David, & Ann J. Premack (1983). ''
The mind of an ape ''The Mind of an Ape'' is a 1983 book by David Premack and his wife Ann James Premack. The authors argue that it is possible to teach language to (non-human) Hominidae, great apes. They write: "We now know that someone who comprehends speech must k ...
''. New York: Norton. * * Sacks, Oliver W. (1989). '' Seeing voices: A journey into the world of the deaf''. Berkeley: University of California Press. . * Sandler, Wendy (2003). "Sign Language Phonology". In William Frawley (Ed.), The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistic

* Sandler, Wendy & Lillo-Martin, Diane (2001). "Natural sign languages". In M. Aronoff & J. Rees-Miller (Eds.), ''Handbook of linguistics'' (pp. 533–562). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. . * Stiles-Davis, Joan; Kritchevsky, Mark; & Bellugi, Ursula (Eds.). (1988). ''Spatial cognition: Brain bases and development''. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates. ; . * William C. Stokoe, Stokoe, William C. (1960, 1978). ''Sign language structure: An outline of the visual communication systems of the American deaf''. Studies in linguistics, Occasional papers, No. 8, Dept. of Anthropology and Linguistics, University at Buffalo. 2d ed., Silver Spring: Md: Linstok Press. * William C. Stokoe, Stokoe, William C. (1974). Classification and description of sign languages. Current Trends in Linguistics 12.345–71. * Twilhaar, Jan Nijen, and Beppie van den Bogaerde. 2016. ''Concise Lexicon for Sign Linguistics''. John Benjamins Publishing Company. * Valli, Clayton, Ceil Lucas, and Kristin Mulrooney. (2005) ''Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction'', 4th Ed. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. * Van Deusen-Phillips S.B., Goldin-Meadow S., Miller P.J., 2001. ''Enacting Stories, Seeing Worlds: Similarities and Differences in the Cross-Cultural Narrative Development of Linguistically Isolated Deaf Children'', Human Development, Vol. 44, No. 6. * Wilbur, R.B. (1987). ''American Sign Language: Linguistic and applied dimensions''. San Diego, CA: College-Hill.


Further reading

*
Fox, Margalit Margalit Fox (born 1961) is an American writer. She began her career in publishing in the 1980s, before switching to journalism in the 1990s. She joined the obituary department of ''The New York Times'' in 2004, and authored over 1,400 obituarie ...
(2007) ''Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind '',
Simon & Schuster Simon & Schuster () is an American publishing company and a subsidiary of Paramount Global. It was founded in New York City on January 2, 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. As of 2016, Simon & Schuster was the third largest publi ...
* Quenqua, Douglas
Pushing Science's Limits in Sign Language Lexicon
''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid d ...
'', December 4, 2012, p. D1 and published online at NYTimes.com on December 3, 2012. Retrieved on December 7, 2012.


Academic journals related to sign languages

* '' American Annals of the Deaf'',
Gallaudet University Press Gallaudet University Press (GUPress) is a publisher that focuses on issues relating to deafness and sign language. It is a part of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., and was founded in 1980 by the university's Board of Trustees. The press is ...
*
Journal of American Sign Language and Literature
'
ASLized!
* '' Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education'',
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and its printing history dates back to the 1480s. Having been officially granted the legal right to print books ...
* '' Sign Language Studies'',
Gallaudet University Press Gallaudet University Press (GUPress) is a publisher that focuses on issues relating to deafness and sign language. It is a part of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., and was founded in 1980 by the university's Board of Trustees. The press is ...
*
Sign Language & Linguistics
',
John Benjamins Publishing Company John Benjamins Publishing Company is an independent academic publisher in social sciences and humanities with its head office in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The company was founded in the 1960s by John and Claire Benjamins and is currently managed ...


External links

''Note: the articles for specific sign languages (e.g. ASL or BSL) may contain further external links, e.g. for learning those languages.''
Langue:Signes du Monde
directory for all online Sign Languages dictionaries


The MUSSLAP Project
Multimodal Human Speech and Sign Language Processing for Human-Machine Communication * Mallery, Garrick. 1879–1880

''Sign language among North American Indians compared with that among other peoples and deaf-mutes. A first annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and Research institute, research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the Federal government of the United States, U.S. govern ...
]''.
Project Gutenberg Project Gutenberg (PG) is a Virtual volunteering, volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, as well as to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks." It was founded in 1971 by American writer Michael S. Hart and is the ...
.'' * Pablo Bonet, J. de (1620

(BNE).
Watch the Bible and other video publications in 99 sign languages
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacredness, sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of ...
s and sign-language study material by
Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses is a Millenarianism, millenarian Restorationism, restorationist Christian denomination with Nontrinitarianism, nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of appr ...
.
Science in Sign
(video, 3 min. 48 secs.), by Davis, Leslye & Huang, Jon & Xaquin, G.V.; interpreted by Callis, Lydia, on NYTimes.com website, December 4, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. The video translates a shortened version of a ''N.Y. Times'' science article on how new signs are being developed to enhance communication in the sciences, extracted from: ** Quenqua, Douglas

''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid d ...
'', December 4, 2012, p.D1 and published online at NYTimes.com on December 3, 2012. Retrieved on December 7, 2012.
signlangtv.org
a project documenting sign language television shows for the deaf around the world * {{DEFAULTSORT:Sign Language Language varieties and styles Deafness Deaf culture Education for the deaf Articles containing video clips