British Sign Language


A language of United Kingdom

Alternate Names

60,000 (2013 K. Crombie Smith). L2 users: 250,000 (2013 K. Crombie Smith).


England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

Language Status

5 (Developing).


Not inherently intelligible to users of American Sign Language [ase]. Deaf community is cohesive so communication good despite regional variation. Signing varies along a continuum from something usually called Signed English (which draws on BSL vocabulary but uses grammatical structure like spoken English) to natural BSL. Different styles of signing used in different situations, and signers vary in terms of how much of the range of signing styles they control. Many structural similarities between British Sign Language (BSL), Australian Sign Language (Auslan) [asf], and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) [nzs] and a high degree of mutual intelligibility (2003 T. Johnston ). Linguists sometimes use the name BANZSL to refer to them as a group, while still recognizing them as separate related languages.

Language Use

Good regional and national organizations for the deaf. Interpreters required in court, and provided in some other situations. Instruction for parents of deaf children. Many sign language classes for hearing people. Increasing desire to train deaf children in BSL. Organization for sign language teachers. Committee on national sign language. Deaf schools established in the late 18th century.

Language Development
Films. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible portions: 2013.