South African Sign Language


A language of South Africa

Alternate Names

235,000 (2011 census). Approx. 500,000 (2008 WFD).



Language Status

5 (Developing). Recognized language (1996, Constitution, Article 6(5a)).


Several dialects are used unofficially in different regions and schools. Deaf Federation of South Africa promotes a standardized variety. 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]. There is a Signed Afrikaans as well. 60% related to British Sign Language [bfi] and Auslan [asf], few to American Sign Language [ase].

Language Use

Vigorous. Understood to some degree by most deaf people. First deaf school established about 1846. Now 29 schools for 4,000 children. Some interpreters provided in courts. Used by all.

Language Development

TV. Dictionary. Agency: Deaf Federation of South Africa.


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

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