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  • Cited by 8
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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Hiddinga, Anja and Crasborn, Onno 2011. Signed languages and globalization. Language in Society, Vol. 40, Issue. 04, p. 483.

    Brentari, Diane Coppola, Marie Mazzoni, Laura and Goldin-Meadow, Susan 2012. When does a system become phonological? Handshape production in gesturers, signers, and homesigners. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, Vol. 30, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Brentari, Diane and Coppola, Marie 2013. What sign language creation teaches us about language. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, Vol. 4, Issue. 2, p. 201.

    Zeshan, Ulrike and Panda, Sibaji 2015. Two languages at hand: Code-switching in bilingual deaf signers. Sign Language & Linguistics, Vol. 18, Issue. 1, p. 90.

    Brentari, Diane Renzo, Alessio Di Keane, Jonathan and Volterra, Virginia 2015. Cognitive, Cultural, and Linguistic Sources of a Handshape Distinction Expressing Agentivity. Topics in Cognitive Science, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 95.

    Asonye, Emmanuel Ihechi Emma-Asonye, Ezinne and Edward, Mary 2018. Deaf in Nigeria: A Preliminary Survey of Isolated Deaf Communities. SAGE Open, Vol. 8, Issue. 2, p. 215824401878653.

    Snoddon, Kristin 2018. Whose ASL counts? Linguistic prescriptivism and challenges in the context of parent sign language curriculum development. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 21, Issue. 8, p. 1004.

    Fobi, Daniel and Oppong, Alexander M. 2018. Communication approaches for educating deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children in Ghana: historical and contemporary issues. Deafness & Education International, p. 1.

  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

18 - Sign languages in West Africa




Little is known about the sign languages used on the African continent. This chapter considers the distribution, use and history of sign languages in the western part of this continent. Studies pertaining to these topics are very rare, and for a number of countries information is completely lacking. For others only bits and pieces of information are available. A radical increase of research efforts in this area is necessary. At present, some basic information on the sign language situation and structure is available for Ghana, Mali and Nigeria. A typical feature of the sign language situation in these and other countries is the coexistence of local and imported sign languages. The most widespread sign language of foreign origin is beyond doubt American Sign Language (ASL), which was introduced in many countries together with deaf education in the past five decades.

The sign language situation in West Africa is as diverse as it is undocumented. A non-exhaustive list of sign languages used in West Africa is found in Table 18.1. Their places of use are indicated on the map in Figure 18.1. The list of sign languages is partly based on information in the Ethnologue (, partly on Kamei (2006) and partly on my own information.

This chapter starts off with an inventory of basic facts about deafness in West Africa in section 2, followed by a short history of deaf education in the region in section 3.

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Sign Languages
  • Online ISBN: 9780511712203
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