Mexican Sign Language

Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
lengua de señas mexicana
Native to Mexico
Region Cities
Native speakers
130,000 (2010)[1]
French Sign
  • Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mfs
Glottolog mexi1237  (LSM proper)[2]
mexi1247  (LSM family)[3]
Video to promote better access to museums for the disable with Mexican sign language

Mexican Sign Language (“lengua de señas mexicana” or LSM, also known by several other names), is the language of the Deaf community in the urban regions of Mexico. It is the primary language of 87,000 to 100,000 people (1986 T. C. Smith-Stark).

Geographic distribution and variation

Core signing populations are found in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, with a number of smaller cities containing signing communities. Some regional variation is found (80%-90% lexical similarity across the country according to Faurot et al. 2001).

Variation is high between age group and people of completely different religious backgrounds.

Relationship of LSM to Spanish

Public service announcement with Mexican sign language interpretation

LSM is quite distinct from Spanish, with completely different verb inflections, different discourse structure and preferences for word order, and little use of the verb to be. However, there is extensive use of initialised signs with one study finding 37% of a 100-word list are initialised, compared to 14% for American Sign Language (Faurot et al. 2001). The same authors suggest that the Deaf community's comprehension of the Spanish language is very low.

The term "Signed Spanish” refers to signing that uses LSM signs (lexicon) in a Spanish word order, with some representations of Spanish morphology. There is a group of suffixes that signed Spanish uses in a way similar to that of signed English, e.g. signed symbols for -dor and -ción (for nouns). Articles and pronouns are fingerspelled. Signed Spanish (or Pidgin Signed Spanish) is often used by interpreters and during public reading or song-leading. Signed Spanish is also used by some hard of hearing and late deafened people.

Relationship to other sign languages

LSM is widely believed by the deaf community to have derived from Old French Sign Language (OFSL), which combined with pre-existing local sign languages and home sign systems when deaf schools were first established in 1869. However, it is mutually unintelligible with American Sign Language, which emerged from OFSL 50 years earlier in the US, although the American manual alphabet is almost identical to the Mexican one. Spanish Sign Language used in Spain is different from Mexican Sign Language, though LSM may have been influenced by it.


In 2005, Mexican Sign Language was officially declared a "national language", along with Spanish and indigenous languages, to be used in the national education system for the deaf.[4] Before 2005, the major educational philosophy in the country focused on oralism (speech and lipreading) and with few schools that conducted classes in LSM.[5]

A 5-minute signed segment of a nightly television news program was broadcast in Signed Spanish in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s, discontinued in 1992, and resumed as a 2-minute summary of headlines in 1997.

Alternate names

See also


  1. Mexican Sign Language (LSM) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Mexican Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Mexican Sign". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Ley general - Personas con discapacidad
  5. The identity of Mexican sign as a language p.4
Mexican Sign Language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
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