Swedish Sign Language

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Swedish Sign Language
Svenskt Teckenspråk
Native toSweden
Native speakers
10,000 (2014)[1]
Swedish Sign
  • Swedish Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3swl
Coordinates: 59°21′00″N 18°04′00″E / 59.3500°N 18.0667°E / 59.3500; 18.0667, 64°00′00″N 26°00′00″E / 64.0000°N 26.0000°E / 64.0000; 26.0000
The Swedish Sign Language word for "part-time"

Swedish Sign Language (Svenskt teckenspråk or SSL) is the sign language used in Sweden. It is recognized by the Swedish government as the country's official sign language, and hearing parents of deaf individuals are entitled to access state-sponsored classes that facilitate their learning of SSL.[4] There are fewer than 10,000 speakers, making the language officially endangered.[5]


Swedish sign language first came into use in 1800. It does not stem from any other languages. In fact, this self-created language went on to influence Finnish Sign Language and Portuguese Sign Language. 1809 marks the year of the first deaf school in Sweden. It was not until 1981 that Swedish Sign Language was recognized as a national language of Sweden.

Swedish Sign Language family tree
Old British Sign Language?
(c. 1760–1900)
Swedish Sign Language
(c. 1800–present)
Portuguese Sign Language
(c. 1820–present)
Finnish Sign Language
(c. 1850–present)
Finland-Swedish Sign Language
(c. 1850–present)
Eritrean Sign Language
(c. 1950–present)


Many of the handshapes used in fingerspelling in Swedish Sign Language are similar to those in American Sign Language, even though the two languages are not related. For example, D is the same as B in ASL, G is the same as S in ASL, H is the same as F in ASL, I is the same in ASL, K is the same in ASL, M and N are very similar in ASL, O is the same in ASL, S is the same as C in ASL, and U, V & W are the same in ASL (but with a different palm orientation).[6]

Swedish Sign Language Alphabet (view from speaker)
American Sign Language Alphabet (view from listener)

Education and communication[edit]

Per the Education Act 1998, deaf children are expected to be able to write in Swedish and English, in addition to expressing their thoughts in Swedish Sign Language. Thus, six state-run schools (one of which specializes in learning disabilities) have been established regionally for deaf children who cannot attend traditional comprehensive schools. Comprehensive and secondary schools in Sweden offer classes in addition to a one-year program to students to learn Swedish Sign Language as a third national language, as well as in hopes of becoming an interpreter. Interpreters are found in hospitals, and they also teach the language to the parents and siblings of deaf children. Sweden provides 240 hours of courses over four years to parents so that they may learn to communicate with their children. Additionally, weekly courses in the language are also available to the siblings of deaf children and the children of deaf parents.[7]

Expanding the culture of the deaf[edit]

Since the recognition of Swedish Sign Language as a national language of Sweden, the Swedish government has made available to deaf individuals television shows and news broadcasts in sign language. Subtitles in sign language are also increasing. On November 29, 2001, the first bible translated into Swedish Sign Language was received. Furthermore, the Health and Medical Service Act (1982) guaranteed interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in working life, leisure, and club activities.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swedish Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ SignPuddle 2.0. Signbank.org. Retrieved on 2013-10-29.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Swedish Sign Language". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Haualand, Hilde; Holmström, Ingela (21 March 2019). "When language recognition and language shaming go hand in hand – sign language ideologies in Sweden and Norway". Deafness & Education International. 21 (2–3): 107. doi:10.1080/14643154.2018.1562636.
  5. ^ Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2015. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Eighteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
  6. ^ "Swedish Sign Language (TSP)". Start ASL. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  7. ^ a b Timmermans, N., & C. (n.d.) (May 1, 2016). "The Status of Sign Languages in Europe" (PDF). coe.int. ISBN 92-871-5723-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]