Sign Language: Central America

Greater Central America is a cultural and linguistic crossroads stretching from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, to northwestern Colombia. The region is home to multiple endogenous sign languages. The socio-politically dominant Ladino/Mestizo/creole ethnicities of each country use diverse creole languages, some of which have regional variants of limited mutual intelligibility, or “old” and “new” generational variants that differ primarily in how extensively they borrow from ASL. One of these, Nicaraguan Sign Language has reshaped established scientific paradigms, while the region’s Indigenous languages challenge enduring assumptions.

Enduring Indigenous Contrasts

Excluding homesigns and sign-pidgins, at least six sign languages used in Central America and Mexico are Indigenous, meaning developed by aboriginal peoples. The remoteness and dismissal ...

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