Turkish Sign Language


A language of Turkey

Alternate Names

Ethnic population: 400,000 (1998 Turkish Ministry of Education). The figure of 400,000 represents audiologically deaf (which agrees reasonably well with the 0.37 percentage reported 2002 by the Turkish Statistical Institute); number of sign language users unknown.



Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


Dialectal variation between schools, due to sign language not being used in the classroom, but mutually intelligible throughout the country (Özyürek 2004).


Fingerspelling: Two-handed, unrelated to the one used for British Sign Language [bfi]. (Kubus and Hohenberger 2011).

Language Use

Vigorous. All ages.

Language Development
Dictionary. Agency: Turkish Federation of the Deaf.
Other Comments

Presence of deaf people using sign languages is documented from Hittite times (2000 to 1200 BCE). During the Ottoman Empire (15th to 18th centuries), deaf and other sign language users, called Dilsiz ‘speechless’, served as royal servants, although there is no evidence that Ottoman Sign Language is related to modern TID. A one-handed fingerspelling system for Arabic script was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries until the alphabet revolution in 1928 that introduced Latin script for writing Turkish [tur], at which time a two-handed fingerspelling system for Latin script came into use. (Kemaloglu and Kemaloglu 2012) First Deaf school in 1902, sign language used in schools until 1953, when schools became oralist. Most deaf children learn TID from peers outside the classroom. A few recent projects to re-establish sign language in schools. (Özyürek 2004).

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