What is Sign Language?


Deaf people around the world communicate using sign language in their everyday lives. Sign Language is a visual language that uses a system of manual, facial and body movements as the means of communication.

Sign Language is not a universal language, and different sign languages are used in different countries, just as there are different spoken languages used in different countries around the world.

Some countries such as Belgium, the USA or India may have more than one sign language. Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world, for instance, Japanese Sign Language, (or Nihon Show, JSL), Spanish Sign Language (Lengua de signos o sends sepanola, or LSE), Turkish Sign Language (Turk Israel Dili, TID).

Sign Languages can be analysed at the phonological, morphological, grammatical and lexical levels, and there are differences at each of these levels between the many different sign languages. There are, however, language families of sign languages: American Sign Language, French Sign Language (langue des signed franchise, LSF) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) are a part of the same sign language family.

Some of the world’s sign languages are legally recognised in national laws or constitutions, or are mentioned in specific laws of different countries, such as those relating to education, the justice system, and so on.

Many Deaf communities all over the world are still seeking to have their sign languages legally recognised as fully-fledged, national languages, and, to secure their rights for equal access and opportunities in order to fully participate in everyday society.

Having access to sign language is central to any Deaf person, child or adult for their cognitive, social, emotional and linguistic growth. Language and culture are inter-related. Deaf culture is deeply rooted in sign language.