under the sponsorship of ILV, A.C.
Signed languages of Mexico
Signed languages are used by Deaf people in many parts of the world. In Mexico, one signed language is used throughout most of the country. It is known in English as Mexican Sign Language and in Spanish as Lengua de Señas Mexicana. In both English and Spanish, it may be referred to by the initials LSM. The number of people who use it as their primary or only language is unknown, but the Deaf community in Mexico that uses LSM appears to be significantly larger than many whole families of indigenous languages in the country.*
LSM is distinct from other signed languages, such as American Sign Language (ASL, used in the United States, the English speaking parts of Canada, and many other countries), the signed languages of Spain, and those of other countries in Latin America. LSM has its own vocabulary and a complex grammar which is very different from the grammar of Spanish. LSM is a complete, natural language, which originated in and is unique to the Deaf Mexican community, and it is fully capable of expressing as wide a range of thoughts and emotions as any other language.
Although LSM is the largest and most widespread signed language used in Mexico, it is not the only one. There are at least two sign languages which have developed in indigenous communities: Yucatec Maya Sign Language (LSMY) and Albarradas Sign Language. There is also an emerging sign language that is developing in two towns of the Chatino ethnic group in the state of Oaxaca and another in a Tzotzil Maya town in the state of Chiapas.
The sign languages in Mexico do not comprise a language family. They have developed (or are developing) independently and they are not related to one another.
LSM is not related to any other language in Mexico, but it has a historical relationship with Old French Sign Language (VLSF), so it has some similarities to American Sign Language and other signed languages influenced by or derived from VLSF.
* In the 2010 census, it was initially reported that in Mexico there were 694,464 "people with hearing problems," 385,358 of which lost their hearing prior to old age. However, the 2020 census reported 6,179,890 "people with disabilities," 21.9% (one million 353 thousand) of which are Deaf or hard of hearing, of whom 15.4% (more than 208 thousand) have this condition from birth and an additional 40.2% (approximately 544 thousand) who lost their hearing prior to old age. Thus, it appears reasonable to estimate that approximately 300 thousand Deaf Mexicans use LSM.