Yucatec Maya Sign Language


A language of Mexico

Alternate Names
Chican Sign Language, LSChicana, Lengua de Señas Chicana, Lenguaje Manual Maya, MSL, Maya Sign Language, Mayan Sign Language, Nohya Sign Language, “Lengua Mímica Maya” (pej.)

400 (Escobedo Delgado 2012). 17 deaf and up to 400 hearing in Chican, the only location for which information is available (1999 H. Smith, Escobedo Delgado 2012, Zeshan et al 2013). Number of users elsewhere unknown. 17 monolinguals (Escobedo Delgado 2012).


Quintana Roo and Yucatán states: Carillo Puerto, Chican, Oxkutzcab, Tixméhuac, Xyatil. (1999 H. Smith, Zeshan et al 2013).

Language Maps
Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


Dialect variation in the Yucatán outside of Chican has not been assessed. Part of a larger complex of dialects or related languages (called Meemul Tziij), used among indigenous populations in Guatemala and other parts of Mexico, which may have originated in precolonial times (Fox Tree 2009). Distinct from Mexican Sign Language [mfs] (1998 R. Johnson, Fox Tree 2009, Zeshan et al 2013). 68% potential cognates with Meemul Tziij of Nahualá, Sololá, Guatemala (Fox Tree 2009).

Language Use

Widely used by hearing people as well as deaf. Hearing people speak Yucatec Maya Sign Language and Spanish [spa]. Reportedly well integrated into local society, so presumably used in all domains in which deaf people participate. Used by all.

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 0%. Some deaf children from Chican attend a nearby special education school, which makes little use of signs.


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

Hereditary deafness. Chican, Yucatán was formerly called ‘Nohya’ in some publications, a pseudonym thought necessary at first to protect the deaf population.

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