Chinese Sign Language


A language of China

Alternate Names
Zhongguo Shouyu


Language Maps
Language Status

5 (Developing).


Southern Chinese Sign Language (Shanghai Sign Language). Few signs of foreign origin; rather, signs are often modeled on written Chinese characters. CSL syntax closely follows Mandarin Chinese [cmn]. Survey needed, as there are reports of several distinct sign varieties in different parts of the country, used in informal situations. As of 2019, ISO 639-3 provides only the code [csl] for all these varieties, although some may be different enough to be eligible for their own code.

Language Use

Classmates and factory coworkers are channels of dissemination. Now specialized deaf colleges use CSL. Official CSL is primarily used in formal situations: Education, Media. Unofficial varieties: Home, Community. Used by all.

Language Development

In 2006, school-age deaf children enrollment rate was approximately 82% (China Disabled Persons’ Federation). TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar.


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

CSL is a state-promoted signing variety that developed out of standardization efforts especially in the 1950s and 1980s, and is promoted in Deaf schools, published dictionaries, teacher training institutes, and through interpreted television programming. Other signing varieties exist in various parts of the country that differ significantly from the official standard and are more widely used by Deaf Chinese (Callaway 2000, Hofer 2017). Shanghai Sign Language is the prestige dialect. CSL has an alphabetic spelling system (analogous to pinyin in Mandarin [cmn]) and can signify tones with facial gestures.

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