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Sign Language: Africa

  • By: Emma Ihechi Asonye
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

Africa is the second largest and second most populated continent in the world, with a landmass of about 30.2 million square kilometers (117 million square miles). Among the more than 300 sign languages in existence in the world, no fewer than 29 are used in Africa. While a good number of the sign languages are completely independent of the foreign spoken languages used in Africa, others have their source in or are influenced by these foreign languages.

Languages, including sign languages, are usually classified according to their genetic inclinations—that is, language families—but classifying the sign languages in Africa according to their structural and functional makeup, which in other words points to their source, is preferable. Tables 1 through 4 describe the sign languages in Africa and ...

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