Swiss-German Sign Language


A language of Switzerland

Alternate Names
Deutschschweizer Gebärdensprache, Deutschschweizerische Gebärdensprache, DGS, DSGS, Natürliche Gebärde

5,500 in Switzerland (Boyes Braem 2010). 10,000 deaf signers in all of Switzerland (2014 EUD).



Language Status

5 (Developing). Recognized language (2002, Federal Parliament, Law on Equality for Disabled People).


Regional variation tied to specific schools: Basel, Bern, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Zurich (Boyes Baem and Rathmann 2010). Similar to sign language used in the southern parts of Germany. Borrowing from Swiss-French Sign Language [ssr]. (Boyes Baem and Rathmann 2010). Fingerspelling system similar to French Sign Language [fsl].


One-handed fingerspelling.

Language Use

First deaf school 1777 in Zurich. Strong oralist tradition in schools in German area; some classes taught in sign language. Deaf associations. Status of signing is improving. Other signed and written languages in Switzerland and surrounding countries, including ASL [ase]. Deaf children from the German cantons and the Rhaeto-Romansh areas are taught to read standard German [deu]; not the unwritten Swiss-German [gsw] or Rhaeto-Romansh [roh] that their parents speak. (Boyes Braem and Rathmann 2010). Also use International Sign [ils].

Language Development

Poetry. Theater. TV. Videos. Dictionary.

Other Comments

Some regional lexical variations in German areas tied to specific schools. Status of signing is improving. Strong oralist tradition in schools in German area. Taught as L2. 13,000 hearing signers (all three sign languages) in Switzerland, estimate based on participants in sign language classes. (Boyes Braem and Rathmann 2010). Christian (Roman Catholic), Christian (Protestant).

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