Guatemalan Sign Language


A language of Guatemala

Alternate Names

28,000 (Parks and Parks 2008). Estimates vary widely: 28,000–256,000 signing Deaf (Parks and Parks 2008).



Language Status

5 (Developing).


Two clusters of dialects based on intelligibility: 1) Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, Mazatenango, and San Marcos; 2) Guatemala City, Escuintla, Zacapa and Cobán (Parks and Parks 2008). Considerable lexical variation, especially outside the two major cities Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, and among older signers (over age 25 in 2008). Relatively little lexical similarity with ASL [ase], but some lexical borrowing, with subsequent initialization from Spanish [spa] (Parks and Parks 2008).


SVO or SOV, mostly noun-initial, Fingerspelling: Mostly one-handed similar to French Sign Language [fsl].

Language Use

Vigorous. Many audiologically deaf people learn Guatemalan Sign Language in their teens or later, after initial exposure to Spanish or the indigenous language of their community; actual proficiency in each language varies widely. Some hearing people sign; most such people have deaf parents or siblings. Used by all. Some also use Spanish [spa] (Parks and Parks 2008). Some also use American Sign Language [ase]. Some Deaf visit the United States, educators and missionaries from the United States visit Guatemala; ASL dictionaries available (Parks and Parks 2008). A few also use Costa Rican Sign Language [csr] (Parks and Parks 2008).

Language Development

TV. Dictionary. Agency: Asociación de Sordos de Guatemala (ASORGUA).


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

Since 1996, some schools use Total Communication, and Deaf people have experienced more freedom to learn LENSEGUA and use it publicly. Approximately 50 working interpreters (Parks and Parks 2008).

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