Indian Sign Language


A language of India

Alternate Names
IPSL, ISL, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, Urban Indian Sign Language

1,500,000 in India (2008 S. Panda). Estimates vary: 5.9 million profoundly deaf in India (2014 IMB); 8 million deaf signers (2017 Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre). Total users in all countries: 4,100,000.



Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


Bangalore-Chennai-Hyderabad Sign Language, Mumbai-Delhi Sign Language. Most sign language varieties in south Asia appear to be related, but there is considerable variation, which has only been partially assessed. Some scholars regard most varieties in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and possibly Nepal as dialects of one language called Indo-Pakistani Sign Language (IPSL), while others feel at least some varieties should be recognized as separate languages. The ISO standard currently (as of 2017) distinguishes ISL from Pakistan Sign Language [pks], West Bengal Sign Language (Kolkata Sign Language) [wbs], and Nepalese Sign Language [nsp]. Some villages, such as Alipur, Karnataka have an indigenous sign language unrelated to ISL (Panda 2012). Some influence from British Sign Language [bfi] in the fingerspelling system and a few other signs developed indigenously in India.

Language Use

Vigorous. Used by all. Many also use American Sign Language [ase], especially in Bangalore (Panda 2012).

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: Below 2%. Male literacy rate in L2 is higher than female as boys are more likely to attend school. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Agency: Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre at Indira Gandhi National Open University.


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

Only about 550–700 schools that use ISL (2008 S. Panda, 2017 BBC). 2% or less of deaf children attend deaf schools, with a high drop-out rate. Vocational programs use ISL more often. Nearly all educated Deaf are bilingual in a written language of wider communication to some degree, and ISL serves as a signed language of wider communication among Deaf in India, especially in cities. Starting 2001, interpreter training in Mumbai by the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for Hearing Handicapped.

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