South African Sign Language


A language of South Africa


12,100 deaf persons including 6,000 Black, 2,000 English white, 2,000 Afrikaans white, 1,200 Coloured, 900 Indian (Van Cleve 1986).

Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


The North British sign system was used for the deaf in white English-speaking families. In 1881 a school for Afrikaans [afr]-speaking families began using British Sign Language [bfi]. Several dialects are used unofficially in different schools. 9 sign language systems, 60% related to British Sign Language [bfi] or Australian sign languages [asf], few to American Sign Language [ase].

Language Use

Understood to some degree by most deaf people. Some interpreters provided in courts.

Other Comments

First deaf school established about 1846. Now 29 schools for 4,000 children. There is a Signed Afrikaans as well.