Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language


A language of Israel

Alternate Names
ABSL, Bedouin Sign Language

140 (Sandler et al 2005). About 140 deaf and an unknown number of hearing.


HaDarom (Negev) district: Al-Sayyid village.

Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


None known. Distinct from national sign languages in the area. Israeli Sign Language (ISL) [isr] users from outside the village do not understand ABSL; ABSL signers do not understand ISL except for younger deaf who learn ISL in school. ABSL signers do not understand Jordanian Sign Language [jos] used on Jordanian television programs received in the area.

Language Use

Vigorous. Used by both deaf and many of the 3,500 hearing people in the village. Siblings and children of deaf individuals, and other members of a household (which may include several wives and their children) often become fluent signers. Hearing people there routinely assess their own proficiency, praising those with greater facility in the language. Used by all. Positive attitudes. Many also use Hebrew [heb], but usually only in writing (Kisch 2012). Many also use South Levantine Spoken Arabic [ajp], especially hearing signers (Kisch 2012). Some also use Israeli Sign Language [isr], especially deaf signers among themselves (reserving ABSL for interactions with hearing people); learned in school (Kisch 2012).


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

Developed spontaneously when four deaf siblings in one family born 1924–1940. Four generations of descendants are recognized (Kisch 2012).

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