Swiss-German Sign Language

Swiss-German Sign Language
Native to Switzerland, Liechtenstein
Native speakers

(an estimated 5,500 deaf lived in German-speaking cantons in 2011)[1]
possibly French SL
  • Swiss-German Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sgg
Glottolog swis1240[2]

Swiss-German Sign Language (German: Deutschschweizer Gebärdensprache, abbreviated DSGS) is the primary deaf sign language of the German-speaking part of Switzerland. The language was established around 1828.[3] In 2011 it was estimated that 7,500 deaf and 13,000 hearing people use DSGS.[1] There are six dialects which developed in boarding schools for the deaf, in Zurich, Bernese, Basel, Lucerne, and St. Gallen, as well as in Liechtenstein.[1]


In Switzerland, the language is called Gebärdensprache (Sign language) if a distinction from other languages is not required. In some sources it's called Natürliche Gebärden or Natürliche Gebärdensprache,[4] or Swiss Sign Language (Langage gestuel suisse).[3] The former just means 'natural sign', like those for "sleep" or "eat", in contrast to Abstrakte Gebärden 'conceptual sign',[5] and this term is therefore no longer used. Most English sources today uses the term German-Swiss Sign Language or Swiss-German Sign Language.[6][7]


Wittmann (1991) suspects that Swiss-German Sign Language may be part of the French Sign Language family, but it is not close and this is not easy to demonstrate.[3]

In Switzerland, the parentage of this language is still in research. A research, if DSGS could be a derivat of the German Sign Language (DGS) is planned, but it was observed, DSGS signers often are more open for borrowing loan signs from LSF-SR, the French Sign Language dialect of the Suisse Romande, and less from the DGS.[1]


Two books have been published in SignWriting.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Braem, Penny Boyes: Gebärdenspracharbeit in der Schweiz: Rückblick und Ausblick, Hamburg: Zeitschrift für Sprache und Kultur Gehörloser
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Swiss-German Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.
  4. Swiss-German Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  5. Deutsche Hörbehinderten Selbsthilfe e.v.: Gebärdensprache
  6. IANA: Language tag assignment for German Swiss Sign Language
  7. Center for sign language research: Bibliography

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