Indo-Pakistani Sign Language

Indo-Pakistani Sign Language (IPSL) (Hindi: भारतीय सांकेतिक भाषा; Urdu: پاکستانی اشاروں کی زبان) is the predominant sign language in South Asia, used by at least several hundred thousand deaf signers (2003).[5][6] As with many sign languages, it is difficult to estimate numbers with any certainty, as the Census of India does not list sign languages and most studies have focused on the north and on urban areas.[7]

The Indian deaf population of 1.1 million is 98% illiterate. In line with oralist philosophy, deaf schools attempt early intervention with hearing aids etc., but these are largely dysfunctional in an impoverished society. As of 1986, only 2% of deaf children attended school.

Pakistan has a deaf population of 0.24 million, which is approximately 7.4% of the overall disabled population in the country.[8]

Indo-Pakistani Sign Language
Native toIndia, Pakistan, Bangladesh
Native speakers
2.7 million in India (2003)[1]
number in Pakistan and Bangladesh unknown[2]
Possibly related to Nepalese Sign
  • Bangalore-Madras Sign Language
  • Bombay Sign Language
  • Calcutta Sign Language
  • Delhi Sign Language
  • North West Frontier Province Sign Language
  • Punjab-Sindh Sign Language
  • Alipur Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
ins – Indian Sign Language, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language
pks – Pakistani Sign Language
wbs – West Bengal Sign Language
Glottologindi1237  Indian SL[3]
paki1242  Pakistan SL[4]

Status of sign language

Deaf schools in the region are overwhelmingly oralist in their approach.[9] Unlike American Sign Language (ASL) and sign languages of European countries, ISL is in rudimentary stage of its development. The Deaf communities of India are still struggling for ISL to gain the status of sign language as a minority language. Though sign language is used by many deaf people in India, it is not used officially in schools for teaching purposes.In 2005, India the National Curricular Framework (NCF) gave some degree of legitimacy to sign language education, by hinting that sign languages may qualify as an optional third language choice for hearing students. NCERT in March 2006 launched a class III text includes a chapter on sign language, emphasising the fact that it is a language like any other and is "yet another mode of communication." The aim was to create healthy attitudes towards the differently abled.

Many efforts have been made by the Deaf communities, NGO's, researchers and other organisations working for deaf people, including All India Federation of Deaf (AIFD), National association of the Deaf (NAD) in the direction of encouraging ISL.Until 2001, no formal classes for teaching ISL were conducted in India. During this period, Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Hearing Handicapped (AYJNIHH), Mumbai, established ISL cell. It started a course "Diploma in Sign Language Interpreter Course". The curriculum designed for the course aims to develop professional communicative competence in Sign language and ability to interpret professionally. It also focused on the basic understanding of Deaf community and Deaf culture. Later, the course was offered in the regional centres in Hyderabad, Bhuvaneshwar, Kolkata and Delhi. Besides AYJNIHH, organisations like Mook Badhir Sangathan in Indore and several other organisations are offering ISL classes. Many NGO's all over the India use ISL to teach English and various academic and vocational courses. These include ISHARA, Mumbai; Deaf Way Foundation, Delhi; Noida Deaf Society; Leadership Education Empowerment of Deaf (LEED), Pune; Speaking Hands Institute for the Deaf, Punjab, etc. (Randhawa, 2014) . The associations like Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) and Indian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ISLIA) were established in 2006 and 2008 respectively for the professional development of Interpreters in India. The two schools have been established in India which is following bilingual approach to teach deaf students. One is Bajaj Institute of Learning (BIL) in Dehradun and the other is Mook Badhir Sangathan in Indore. Apart from the establishment of organisations working for Deaf people there has been a spurt in research on sign language in India. Recent additions are the research studies by research scholars of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and University of Delhi including Wallang, 2007 ; Sinha,2003,2008/2013 ; Hidam,2010 ; Kulsheshtra, 2013 . There is also work on problems and awareness of ISL and typology of ISL verbs (Morgan 2009,2010) . Apart from these there have been continued works by scholars on linguistic aspects of ISL as well as on varieties of ISL (Bhattacharya and Hidam 2010, Aboh, Pfau, and Zeshan 2005, Zeshan and Panda 2011, Panda 2011, Panda 2012). The earnest step taken by the Government of India to promote sign language was establishment of the ISLRTC. However, currently the autonomy of the Research centre is a contentious issue, yet to be resolved.


There are many varieties of sign language in the region, including many pockets of home sign and local sign languages, such as Ghandruk Sign Language, Jhankot Sign Language, and Jumla Sign Language in Nepal, and Alipur Sign Language in India, which appear to be language isolates. There are also various Sri Lankan sign languages which may not even be related to each other. However, the urban varieties of India, Pakistan, Nepal (Nepalese Sign Language), and Bangladesh are clearly related (although, for Nepalese Sign Language at least, it is not clear whether the relation is genetic, or perhaps rather one of borrowing compounded by extensive incorporation of a shared South Asian gestural base). There is disagreement whether these related varieties should be considered separate languages.

  • Woodward (1993) found cognacy rates of 62–71%; he concluded that the various varieties are separate languages belonging to the same language family.[10]
  • Zeshan (2000)[7] proposes that Indian and Pakistani SL are varieties of a single language.
  • The ISO 639-3 standard categorises these varieties as three separate sign languages in India and Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Ethnologue (2016), which follows the ISO standard, acknowledges the relatedness of these varieties as well as the controversy over whether they are one language or many.[11] They identify the following dialects within India: Bangalore-Chennai-Hyderabad Sign Language, Mumbai-Delhi Sign Language and Kolkata Sign Language.
  • Johnson and Johnson (2016)[12] argue that the varieties used in Kolkata and Bangladesh are distinct from that used in Delhi, and probably also from each other.

While the sign system in ISL appears to be largely indigenous, elements in ISL are derived from British Sign Language. For example, most ISL signers nowadays use fingerspelling based on British Sign Language fingerspelling, with only isolated groups using an indigenous devanagari-based fingerspelling system (for example, Deaf students and graduates of the school for the deaf in Vadodara/Baroda, Gujarat). In addition, more recently contact with foreign Deaf has resulted in rather extensive borrowing from International Signs and (either directly or via International Signs) from American Sign Language. A small number of the Deaf in and around Bengaluru are often said to use American Sign Language (owing to a longstanding ASL deaf school there); however it is probably more correct to say that they use a lexicon based largely on ASL (or Signed English), while incorporating also a not inconsequential ISL element. Furthermore, regardless of the individual signs used, the grammar used is clearly ISL and not ASL.

The Delhi Association for the Deaf is reportedly working with Jawaharlal Nehru University to identify a standard sign language for India.[13]


Early history

Although discussion of sign languages and the lives of deaf people is extremely rare in the history of South Asian literature, there are a few references to deaf people and gestural communication in texts dating from antiquity.[14] Symbolic hand gestures known as mudras have been employed in religious contexts in Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism for many centuries, although these religious traditions have often excluded deaf people from participation in ritual or religious membership.[15] In addition, classical Indian dance and theatre often employs stylised hand gestures with particular meanings.[16]

An early reference to gestures used by deaf people for communication appears in a 12th-century Islamic legal commentary, the Hidayah. In the influential text, deaf (or "dumb") people have legal standing in areas such as bequests, marriage, divorce and financial transactions, if they communicate habitually with intelligible signs.[17]

Early in the 20th century, a high incidence of deafness was observed among communities of the Naga hills. As has happened elsewhere in such circumstances (see, for example, Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language), a village sign language had emerged and was used by both deaf and hearing members of the community. Ethnologist and political officer John Henry Hutton wrote:

As one might expect ... of men without the art of writing, the language of signs has reached a high state of development... To judge how highly developed is this power of communicating by signs, etc., it is necessary only to experience a Naga interpreter's translation of a story or a request told to him in sign language by a dumb man. ... Indeed the writer has known a dumb man make a long and detailed complaint of an assault in which nothing was missing except proper names, and even these were eventually identified by means of the dumb man's description of his assailants' dress and personal appearance.[18]

(See Naga Sign Language.) However, it is unlikely that any of these sign systems are related to modern IPSL, and deaf people were largely treated as social outcasts throughout South Asian history.

Residential deaf schools

Documented deaf education began with welfare services, mission schools and orphanages from the 1830s, and "initially worked with locally-devised gestural or signed communication, sometimes with simultaneous speech."[19] Later in the 19th century, residential deaf schools were established, and they tended (increasingly) to adopt an oralist approach over the use of sign language in the classroom. These schools included The Bombay Institution for Deaf-Mutes, which was founded by Bishop Leo Meurin in the 1880s,[20] and schools in Madras[21] and Calcutta[22] which opened in the 1890s. Other residential schools soon followed, such as the "School for Deaf and Dumb Boys" at Mysore, founded in 1902,[23] a school in Dehiwala in what is now Sri Lanka, founded in 1913,[24] and "The Ida Rieu School for blind, deaf, dumb and other defective children", founded in 1923 in Karachi, in what is now Pakistan.[25]

While a few students who were unable to learn via the oralist method were taught with signs, many students preferred to communicate with each other via sign language, sometimes to the frustration of their teachers. The first study of the sign language of these children, which is almost certainly related to modern IPSL, was in 1928 by British teacher H. C. Banerjee. She visited three residential schools for deaf children, at Dacca, Barisal and Calcutta, observing that "in all these schools the teachers have discouraged the growth of the sign language, which in spite of this official disapproval, has grown and flourished."[26] She compared sign vocabularies at the different schools and described the signs in words in an appendix.

A rare case of a public event conducted in sign language was reported by a mission in Palayamkottai in 1906: "Our services for the Deaf are chiefly in the sign language, in which all can join alike, whether learning Tamil, as those do who belong to the Madras Presidency, or English, which is taught to those coming from other parts."[27]


Despite the common assumption that Indian Sign Language is the manual representation of spoken English or Hindi, it is in fact unrelated to either language and has its own grammar. Zeshan (2014) discusses three aspects of ISL: its lexicon, syntax and spatial grammar. Some distinct features of ISL that differ from other sign languages include:

1) Number Signs: The numbers from zero to nine are formed in ISL by holding up a hand with the appropriate handshape for each number. From one to five the corresponding number of extended fingers forms the numeral sign, whereas for zero and the numbers from six to nine special handshapes are used that derive from written numbers. Ten may either be expressed by two 5-hands or by ‘1+0’. (Zeshan, 2000)

2) Family Relationship: The signs for family relationship are preceded by the sign for ‘male/man’ and ‘female/woman’.



3) Sign families: Several signs belong to same family if they share one or more parameters including handshapes, place of articulation and movement.


   i)PASS and FAIL – The handshape for the sign is same but they move in opposite direction.
   ii)MONEY, PAY and RICH – They have same handshape but different place of articulation and movement pattern.
   iii)THINK, KNOW and UNDERSTAND – The place of articulation is head which is same for all signs.

4) The ISL consists of various non-manual gestures including mouth pattern, mouth gesture, facial expression, body posture, head position and eye gaze (Zeshan, 2001)

5) There is no temporal inflection in ISL. The past, present and future is depicted by using signs for before, then, and after.

6) The question words like WHAT, WHERE, WHICH, HOW etc. are placed at the end of interrogative sentences.

 i) English: Where is the bank?
ii) English: Who is sick?
    ISL    : SICK WHO

7) The use of space is a crucial feature of ISL.

Sentences are always predicate final, and all of the signs from the open lexical classes can function as predicates. Ellipsis is extensive, and one-word sentences are common. There is a strong preference for sentences with only one lexical argument. Constituent order does not play any role in the marking of grammatical relations. These are coded exclusively by spatial mechanisms (e.g., directional signs) or inferred from the context. Temporal expressions usually come first in the sentence, and if there is a functional particle, it always follows the predicate (e.g., YESTERDAY FATHER DIE COMPLETIVE – "(My) father died yesterday").[28]

Popular culture

Indian Sign language has appeared in numerous Indian films such as:

  • Koshish, 1972 film about a deaf couple.
  • Mozhi, 2007 film about the love story of a deaf and mute girl.
  • Khamoshi: The Musical, a 1996 film about a deaf couple with a daughter who becomes a musician.
  • Black, a 2005 film about a blind and deaf girl based in part on the life of Helen Keller.


  1. ^ Indian Sign Language, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Pakistani Sign Language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    West Bengal Sign Language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ The estimate of 5.9 million from Ethnologue 18's reference, IMB, is the number of deaf people.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Indian Sign Language". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Pakistan Sign Language". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ Vasishta, M., J. C. Woodward, and K. L. Wilson (1978). "Sign Language in India: Regional Variation within the Deaf Population". Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics. 4 (2): 66–74.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Ethnologue gives the signing population in India as 2,680,000 in 2003.
    Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b Ulrike Zeshan (2000). Sign Language of Indo-Pakistan: A description of a Signed Language. Philadelphia, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
  8. ^ Pakistan Sign Language – A Synopsis Archived 15 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Dilip Deshmukh (1996). Sign Language and Bilingualism in Deaf Education,. Ichalkaranji,.
  10. ^ Woodward, J (1993). "The relationship of sign language varieties in India, Pakistan and Nepal". Sign Language Studies (78): 15–22.
  11. ^ "Indian Sign Language", Ethnologue (19 ed.), SIL International, 2016, retrieved 23 October 2016
  12. ^ Johnson, Russell J.; Johnson, Jane E. (2016). "Distinction between West Bengal Sign Language, and Indian Sign Language Based on Statistical Assessment". Sign Language Studies. 16 (4).
  13. ^ "Standard sign language for the deaf in India soon". New Delhi,: Hindustan Times. Press Trust of India. 16 September 2004. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012.
  14. ^ M. Miles (2001). "Sign, Gesture & Deafness in South Asian & South-West Asian Histories: a bibliography with annotation and excerpts from India; also from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma / Myanmar, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, Persia / Iran, & Sri Lanka". Archived from the original on 27 April 2007. Retrieved 6 May 2007.
  15. ^ Scholar of Oriental studies H. W. Bailey identifies passages in the Avesta (Yast 5.93) and the Vinaya, e.g. "Excluded from the Buddhist Theravāda community (sangha-) were the andha-, mUga-, and badhira-, 'the blind, dumb, and deaf'." (Footnote: Pali Vinaya I, 91, 15)
    Bailey, H.W. (1961). "Arya III". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (24): 470–483. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00092181.
  16. ^ Shukla, Hira Lal (1994). Semiotica Indica. Encyclopaedic dictionary of body-language in Indian art and culture. 2 vols. New Delhi: Aryan Books International.
  17. ^ Vol. IV, Book LIII. Al-Marghinani (1870, reprint 1975, 4 vols in one). The Hedaya or Guide. A commentary on the Mussulman laws. 2nd edn. transl. Charles Hamilton, ed. Standish Grady. Lahore: Premier Book. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  18. ^ Hutton, John Henry (1921). The Angami Nagas, with some notes on neighbouring tribes. London: MacMillan. pp. 291–292.
  19. ^ Miles, M. 2001, extended and updated 2006-04. "Signs of Development in Deaf South & South-West Asia: histories, cultural identities, resistance to cultural imperialism". This is a further revised, extended and updated version of a chapter first published in: Alison Callaway (ed) Deafness and Development, University of Bristol, Centre for Deaf Studies, 2001. Internet publication URL:
  20. ^ Hull, Ernest R. (1913) Bombay Mission-History with a special study of the Padroado Question. Volume II 1858–1890. Bombay: Examiner Press
  21. ^ Report on Public Instruction in the Madras Presidency for 1892–93. Madras, 1893. (Report by D. Duncan).
  22. ^ Editorial (1895), "The deaf mutes in India". The Indian Magazine and Review, August 1895, pp. 436–38. (Quoting largely an article by Ernest J.D. Abraham, in The British Deaf-Mute, May 1895).
  23. ^ Iyer, A. Padmanabha (1938). "Modern Mysore, impression of a visitor". Trivandrum: Sridhara Printing House. pp 78–83
  24. ^ Smith, M. Saumarez (1915) "C.E.Z.M.S. Work among the Deaf in India & Ceylon". London: Church of England Zenana Mission Society. p. 13
  25. ^ Report on Public Instruction in the Bombay Presidency for the Year 1923–24. Bombay: Central Govt Press. 1925. (Report by M. Hesketh). p. 91
  26. ^ Banerjee, H.C. (1928). "The sign language of deaf-mutes". Indian Journal of Psychology. 3: 69–87. (quote from p.70)
  27. ^ Swainson, Florence (1906). "Report of the Deaf and Dumb and Industrial School in connection with the Church of England Zenana Mission, Palamcottah, South India, for 1905". Palamcottah: Church Mission Press. p.9
  28. ^ Zeshan, U. (2003). "Indo-Pakistani Sign Language Grammar: A Typological Outline." Sign Language Studies 3:2, 157–212.

Further reading

  • Deshmukh, D (1997), "Sign Language and Bilingualism in Deaf Education".

Ichalkaranj, India: Deaf Foundation.

  • Sulman, Nasir & Zuberi, Sadaf (2002) "Pakistan Sign Language – A synopsis".

Sinha, Samar (2005), A Skeletal Grammar of Indian Sign Language, MPhil dissertation. JNU, New Delhi. Sinha, Samar (2008), A Grammar of Indian Sign Language, PhD thesis, JNU, New Delhi

External links

Deaf-community sign language

A deaf-community sign language is a sign language that emerges when deaf people who do not have a common language come together and form a community. This may be a formal situation, such as the establishment of a school for the deaf, or informal, such as migration to cities for employment and the subsequent gathering of deaf people for social purposes.

An example of the first is Nicaraguan Sign Language, which emerged when deaf children in Nicaragua were brought together for the first time, and received only oral education; of the latter, Bamako Sign Language, which emerged among the tea circles of the uneducated deaf in the capital of Mali. Nicaraguan SL is now a language of instruction and is recognized as the national sign language; Bamako SL is not, and is threatened by the use of American Sign Language in schools for the deaf.

Deaf-community sign languages contrast with village sign language in that they tend to be used only by the deaf, at least at first, and most communication is between deaf people. Village sign languages, on the other hand, develop in relatively isolated areas with high incidences of congenital deafness, where most hearing people have deaf family, so that most signers are hearing. These differences have linguistic consequences. Urban deaf communities lack the common knowledge and social context that enables village signers to communicate without being verbally explicit. Deaf-community signers need to communicate with strangers, and therefore must be more explicit; it is thought this may have the effect of developing or at least speeding up the development of grammatical and other linguistic structures in the emerging language. For example, only deaf-community sign languages are known to make abstract and grammatical use of sign space. Both types of deaf sign language differ from speech-taboo languages such as the various Aboriginal Australian sign languages, which are developed by the hearing community and only used secondarily by the deaf, and are not independent languages.

Deaf-community languages may develop directly from home sign, or perhaps from idioglossic sign (in families with more than one deaf child), as was the case with Nicaraguan SL, or they may develop from village sign languages, as appears to have been at least partially the case with American SL, which arose in a school for the deaf where French Sign Language was the language of instruction, but seems to have derived largely from two or three village sign languages of the students.

Initialized sign

In sign language, an initialized sign is a word that is signed with a handshape that corresponds to the fingerspelling of the corresponding word in the locally dominant oral language, usually the initial letter of that word. In some cases, this is due to the local oral language having more than one equivalent to a basic sign. For example, in ASL, the signs for "class" and "family" are the same (a basic sign for 'group of people'), except that "class" is signed with a 'C' handshape, and "family" with an 'F' handshape. In other cases initialization is required for disambiguation, though the signs are not semantically related. For example, in ASL, "water" it signed with a 'W' handshape touching the mouth, while "dentist" is similar apart from using a 'D' handshape. In other cases initialization is not used for disambiguation; the ASL sign for "elevator", for example, is an 'E' handshape moving up and down along the upright index finger of the other hand.

The large number of initialized signs in ASL and French Sign Language is partly a legacy of Épée's system of Methodical Sign, in which the hand shapes of most signs were changed to correspond to the initial letter of their translation in the local oral language, and (in the case of ASL) partly a more recent influence of Manually Coded English.Sign languages make use of initialized signs to different degrees. Some, such as Taiwanese Sign Language and Hong Kong Sign Language have none at all, as they have no manual alphabets and thus no fingerspelling. In ASL, initialized signs are typically considered "hearing" signs, used in schools to help students acquire English, though some such as "water" above are thoroughly assimilated. In Mexican Sign Language, however, initialized signs are much more numerous, and are more fully integrated into the language (Faurot et al. 1992). This is also the case with Nepali Sign Language, and are perhaps one of the most noticeable structural differences between the lexicon of Nepali Sign Language and that of neighboring Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, which (perhaps in part due to its two-handed manual alphabet) has significantly far fewer initialized signs, but a fair number of "sequential initializations (i.e. compound signs composed of the initial letter of the word either preceding or following a sign, e.g. "C" + BOSS = CAPTAIN in IPSL) (Morgan 2012).

Iqbal (film)

Iqbal is a 2005 Indian coming-of-age sports drama film written and directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. Produced by Subhash Ghai, under "Mukta Searchlight Films", the story follows a cricket-obsessed deaf and mute boy from a remote Indian village as he aims to overcomes difficulties to become a cricketer and fulfill his dream of playing for the Indian national cricket team. The film received the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues.The film was screened retrospective on 18 August 2016 at the Independence Day Film Festival jointly presented by the Indian Directorate of Film Festivals and Ministry of Defense, commemorating 70th Indian Independence Day.


Koshish (Hindi: कोशिश, translation Effort) is a 1972 Hindi movie starring Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, and directed by Gulzar.

Koshish is considered a landmark movie in the history of Indian cinema. It stars Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri. The movie depicts a deaf and mute couple and their conflicts, pain and struggle to carve out a niche for themselves in a desensitized society. It is a remake of the Japanese film Happiness of Us Alone (1961). The film was later remade in Tamil as Uyarndhavargal in 1977 with Kamal Haasan and Sujatha.

Languages of Asia

There is a wide variety of languages spoken throughout Asia, comprising different language families and some unrelated isolates. The major language families spoken on the continent include Altaic, Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Caucasian, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Indo-European, Afroasiatic, Siberian, Sino-Tibetan and Tai-Kadai. They usually have a long tradition of writing, but not always.

Languages of India

Languages spoken in India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 78.05% of Indians and the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% of Indians. Languages spoken by the remaining 2.31% of the population belong to the Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai and a few other minor language families and isolates. India (780) has the world's second highest number of languages, after Papua New Guinea (839).Article 343 of the Indian constitution stated that the official language of the Union should become Hindi in Devanagari script instead of the extant English. But this was thought to be a violation of the constitution's guarantee of federalism. Later, a constitutional amendment, The Official Languages Act, 1963, allowed for the continuation of English in the Indian government indefinitely until legislation decides to change it. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union were supposed to be the international form of Indian numerals, distinct from the numerals used in most English-speaking countries. Despite the misconceptions, Hindi is not the national language of India. The Constitution of India does not give any language the status of national language.The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 languages, which have been referred to as scheduled languages and given recognition, status and official encouragement. In addition, the Government of India has awarded the distinction of classical language to Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. Classical language status is given to languages which have a rich heritage and independent nature.

According to the Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. However, figures from other sources vary, primarily due to differences in definition of the terms "language" and "dialect". The 2001 Census recorded 30 languages which were spoken by more than a million native speakers and 122 which were spoken by more than 10,000 people. Two contact languages have played an important role in the history of India: Persian and English. Persian was the court language during the Mughal period in India. It reigned as an administrative language for several centuries until the era of British colonisation. English continues to be an important language in India. It is used in higher education and in some areas of the Indian government. Hindi, the most commonly spoken language in India today, serves as the lingua franca across much of North and Central India. However, there have been anti-Hindi agitations in South India, most notably in the state of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam, Punjab and other non-Hindi regions have also started to voice concerns about Hindi.

Languages of Pakistan

Pakistan is home to many dozens of languages spoken as first languages. Five languages have more than 10 million speakers each in Pakistan – Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu. Almost all of Pakistan's languages belong to the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family.

Pakistan's national language is Urdu, which, along with English, is also the official language.

The country also has several regional languages, including Punjabi, Saraiki, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Hindko, Brahui, Shina, Balti, Khowar,

Dhatki, Haryanvi, Marwari, Wakhi and Burushaski. Four of these are provincial languages – Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi.

The number of individual languages listed for Pakistan is 74. All are living languages. Of these, 66 are indigenous and 8 are non-indigenous. Furthermore, 7 are 'institutional', 17 are 'developing', 39 are 'vigorous', 9 are 'in trouble', and 2 are 'dying'.

List of sign languages

There are perhaps three hundred sign languages in use around the world today. The number is not known with any confidence; new sign languages emerge frequently through creolization and de novo (and occasionally through language planning). In some countries, such as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, each school for the deaf may have a separate language, known only to its students and sometimes denied by the school; on the other hand, countries may share sign languages, although sometimes under different names (Croatian and Serbian, Indian and Pakistani). Deaf sign languages also arise outside educational institutions, especially in village communities with high levels of congenital deafness, but there are significant sign languages developed for the hearing as well, such as the speech-taboo languages used in aboriginal Australia. Scholars are doing field surveys to identify the world's sign languages.The following list is grouped into three sections :

Deaf sign languages, which are the preferred languages of Deaf communities around the world; these include village sign languages, shared with the hearing community, and Deaf-community sign languages

Auxiliary sign languages, which are not native languages but sign systems of varying complexity, used alongside spoken languages. Simple gestures are not included, as they do not constitute language.

Signed modes of spoken languages, also known as manually coded languages, which are bridges between signed and spoken languagesThe list of deaf sign languages is sorted regionally and alphabetically, and such groupings should not be taken to imply any genetic relationships between these languages (see List of language families).

List of sign languages by number of native signers

The following are sign languages reported to be spoken by at least 10,000 people.

Estimates for sign language use are very crude, and definitions of what counts as proficiency varied. For most sign languages we do not have even a crude estimate. For instance, there are reported to be a million signers in Ethiopia, but it is unknown which or how many sign languages they use.

The 2013 edition of Ethnologue lists 137 sign languages.

Manually coded language

Manually coded languages are not themselves languages but are representations of oral languages in a gestural-visual form; that is, signed versions of oral languages (signed languages). Unlike the sign languages that have evolved naturally in deaf communities, which have distinct spatial structures, these manual codes (MCL) are the conscious invention of deaf and hearing educators, and mostly follow the grammar of the oral language—or, more precisely, of the written form of the oral language. They have been mainly used in deaf education in an effort to "represent English on the hands" and by sign language interpreters in K-12 schools, although they have had some influence on deaf sign languages where their implementation was widespread.

Nepali Sign Language

Nepalese Sign Language or Nepali Sign Language is the main deaf sign language of Nepal. It is a somewhat standardized language based informally on the variety of Kathmandu, with some input from varieties of Pokhara and elsewhere. As an indigenous sign language, it is not related to oral Nepali. The newly promulgated constitution on Nepal 2072 (2015) had specifically mentioned the right to have education in Sign Language for the deaf. Likewise the newly passed Disability right act 2072 (2017) in its definition of Language has mentioned "“Language” means spoken and sign languages and other forms of speechless language. " in practice it is recognized by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, and is used (albeit in a somewhat pidginized form) in all schools for the deaf. In addition, there is legislation underway in Nepal which, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which Nepal has ratified, should give Nepalese Sign Language equal status with the oral languages of the country.

Sign language

Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning. Language is expressed via the manual signstream in combination with non-manual elements. Sign languages are full-fledged natural languages with their own grammar and lexicon. This means that sign languages are not universal and they are not mutually intelligible, although there are also striking similarities among sign languages.

Linguists consider both spoken and signed communication to be types of natural language, meaning that both emerged through an abstract, protracted aging process and evolved over time without meticulous planning. Sign language should not be confused with body language, a type of nonverbal communication.

Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have developed as handy means of communication and they form the core of local deaf cultures. Although signing is used primarily by the deaf and hard of hearing, it is also used by hearing individuals, such as those unable to physically speak, those who have trouble with spoken language due to a disability or condition (augmentative and alternative communication), or those with deaf family members, such as children of deaf adults.

It is unclear how many sign languages currently exist worldwide. Each country generally has its own, native sign language, and some have more than one. The 2013 edition of Ethnologue lists 137 sign languages. Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all.Linguists distinguish natural sign languages from other systems that are precursors to them or derived from them, such as invented manual codes for spoken languages, home sign, "baby sign", and signs learned by non-human primates.

Smriti Nagpal

Smriti Nagpal is an Indian television presenter, sign language interpreter, and social entrepreneur. She worked for the Doordarshan network where she presented the morning news bulletin for the hearing impaired. She is the founder of Atulyakala, an organisation promoting deaf education and awareness of sign language. Nagpal has also co-founded the Hearken Café in Shahpur Jat, which is run by deaf employees. She is an advocate of Indo-Pakistani Sign Language. Nagpal was included in the BBC's 100 Women series in 2015, in the "30 Under 30" entrepreneur category, In 2016, Nagpal received the Nelson Mandela – Graça Machel Innovation Award in the Youth Category, presented at International Civil Society Week in Bogotá, Colombia. She was also listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 for Social Entrepreneurs in Asia.

Two-handed manual alphabets

Several manual alphabets in use around the world employ two hands to represent some or all of the letters of an alphabet, usually as a part of a deaf sign language. Two-handed alphabets are less widespread than one-handed manual alphabets. They may be used to represent the Latin alphabet (for example in the manual alphabet used in Turkish Sign Language) or the Cyrillic alphabet (as is sometimes used in Yugoslav Sign Language).


Urdu (; Urdu: اُردُو‎ ALA-LC: Urdū [ˈʊrduː] (listen)) (also known as Lashkari, locally written لشکری)—or, more precisely, Modern Standard Urdu—is a Persianised standard register of the Hindustani language. It is the official national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. In India, it is one of the 22 official languages recognized in the Constitution of India, having official status in the six states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, as well as the national capital territory of Delhi. It is a registered regional language of Nepal.Apart from specialized vocabulary, spoken Urdu is mutually intelligible with Standard Hindi, another recognized register of Hindustani. The Urdu variant of Hindustani received recognition and patronage under British rule when the British replaced the local official languages with English and Hindustani written in Nastaʿlīq script, as the official language in North and Northwestern India. Religious, social, and political factors pushed for a distinction between Urdu and Hindi in India, leading to the Hindi–Urdu controversy.According to Nationalencyklopedin's 2010 estimates, Urdu is the 21st most spoken first language in the world, with approximately 66 million speakers. According to Ethnologue's 2017 estimates, Urdu, along with standard Hindi and the languages of the Hindi belt (as Hindustani), is the 3rd most spoken language in the world, with approximately 329.1 million native speakers, and 697.4 million total speakers.

Official languages
Other languages
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and Asia
New Guinea
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See also

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