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About Our Languages

About Our Languages map

 

 

Israeli Sign Language

Israeli Sign Language (ISL) is the major sign language in Israel. It came into existence in the 1930s and 1940s, with the formation of the Deaf community in Israel, which today numbers about 10,000 people. The present day ISL community consists of four generation of signers: from the very first generation, those who contributed to the earliest stages of the language, to the fourth generation, whose members have acquired ISL as a full-fledged system. ISL is the language of the national Deaf Association, the education system, and sign language interpreting throughout Israel.

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Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) is a young language which arose spontaneously in the village of Al-Sayyid in southern Israel, as a result of a high incidence of deafness in the community (about 3.5%). It is different in vocabulary and structure from other sign languages in the region. Since it arose spontaneously, with hardly any influence of other languages, it offers us the rare opportunity to trace the emergence of a language almost from the beginning, and to discover its essential ingredients. Today, there are about 130 deaf signers and a large number of hearing signers in the village.

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Algerian Jewish Sign Language

Algerian Jewish Sign Language (AJSL) originated in Ghardaia, a Berber town located in the M'zab (sub-Saharan) region of Algeria. The Jewish community there was socially isolated from the other town residents. Consanguineous marriage resulted in a high percentage of deafness (2.5%), and a sign language developed there, going back at least five generations. By the 1960s, the entire Jewish community had fled Ghardaia and emigrated to Israel or to France, where deaf people continued to use the sign language among themselves and with their hearing family members. The older members of the community are fully bilingual in AJSL and ISL. The descendants of the original group from Ghardaia know some signs from AJSL, but are not fluent, and the language is endangered.

In our research, we investigate the socio-linguistic conditions that led to the emergence of the language in Ghardaia and to its survival in Israel, unlike the other sign languages that immigrants brought to Israel from other countries and abandoned. Additionally, we document the vocabulary of Algerian Jewish Sign Language (see AJSL dictionary) and its linguistic structure.

link to Dictionary

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Kafr Qasem Sign Language

Kafr Qasem Sign Language (KQSL) arose in the town of Kafr Qasem in central Israel. Of its 20,000 residents, approximately 100 are deaf. From reports and interviews with residents of the town we have learned that deafness goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, making the language about one hundred years old.

We are investigating several aspects of the lexical and linguistic structure of KQSL, including its word order, sentence structure, and use of space. We are also compiling vocabulary items to create an on-line dictionary of the language.

link to Dictionary

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There are a number of other sign languages in towns and villages in Israel, in which we have conducted preliminary research:  Abu-Kaf, Al-Atrash, Arab El-Naim and Ein Mahel.
As signs from Israeli Sign Language are used in the education system, and as village signers have more contact with ISL signers through social and sports activities, it is not yet known whether this will result in marginal lexical borrowing, in creolization of village sign languages, or in their extinction over time.