Researching sign languages
The scope of this research guide is the natural sign languages of other countries (or ethnic groups) than the United States (for example, Swedish Sign Language). It does not include pidgins or manually coded systems (for example, Signed Swedish). Remember, this guide will not tell you about all the materials the Library has about sign languages in other countries You must do the basic research yourself. This resource will guide you to the appropriate places to begin your search for information If you need further assistance, please ask at the Service Desk.
Many national or ethnic sign languages still have very little or nothing written about them, so don't be surprised if you can find nothing, or only a very little, about particular sign language. Please ask a librarian at the Reference Desk if you are having difficulty finding information
A good general introduction can be found in:
- "Sign languages", in Gallaudet encyclopedia of deaf people and deafness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987, volume 3, pages 31-118. (On reserve at the Service Desk.)
This encyclopedia contains numerous articles about sign languages. They explain various aspects of sign languages, such as facial expression, history, other countries' sign languages, and more. The articles also have bibliographies which will help you find more information about this subject. Look in the index (back of Volume 3) under the name of the country that you want to find sign language information for. Be sure to ask a librarian for assistance if you are having trouble finding what you want.
In this book, look up the sign languages under the English name of the language, not the name of the country. For example, look for "Dutch Sign Language" instead of "Netherlands".
The 16th edition of Ethnologue catalogues signed languages as well as spoken, globally, and can be accessed online by anyone.
When you search for the name of a country, don't forget to also check possible alternate names and spellings. For example, search both "Russia" and "Soviet Union"; "Taiwan" and "Hong Kong" as well as "China"; "Romania", "Rumania", and "Roumania". Also remember that, for example, Australian Aborigine Sign Language is not the same as Australian Sign Language. Remember, too, that some countries can have more than one sign language in them. For example, Mexico has both Mexican Sign Language and Yucatan Maya Sign Language, and Canada has both American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language.
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Revised by Tom Harrington
Reference and Instruction Librarian
March 1997 and May 1998
Revised and updated by James McCarthy
Instruction & Reference Librarian