Kenyan Sign Language


A language of Kenya

Alternate Names

340,000 (2007 DOOR), increasing. Another estimate: 600,000 (over 1% of general population, Wilson and Kakiri 2011).



Language Status

5 (Developing). Recognized language (2010, Constitution, Official Languages of Parliament, Article 120(2)).


Nairobi (central), Kisumu (western), Mombasa (eastern). Standardized with minor variations between dialects since 1961, when primary schools for deaf children began. Mainly unrelated to other sign languages, although appears to have influenced Uganda Sign Language [ugn]. There appears to be less lexical borrowing (fingerspelling, initialization) from spoken languages than in many other sign languages. Fingerspelling system similar to French Sign Language [fsl].


One-handed fingerspelling.

Language Use

Church, government, courts. Mainly those in schools and over 15 years old. Neutral attitudes.

Language Development

Schools under the Kenya Institute of Education use Kenyan version of (American) Signed Exact English, including 1 at Machakos. KSL used at Nyangoma School at Bondo, a primary and boys’ technical school (Sakwa), and in 1 girl’s school. Taught in primary and secondary schools. TV. Dictionary. Bible portions: 2010–2013. Agencies: Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD); Kenyan Sign Language Research Project (KSLRP) at the University of Nairobi; Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA); Kenyan Interpreters and Translators Association (KITA).


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

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