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Hawai'i Sign Language

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Title: Hawai'i Sign Language  
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Subject: Languages of the United States, American English, Alaska, List of African-American inventors and scientists, Fashion in the United States
Collection: Languages of the United States, Village Sign Languages
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Hawai'i Sign Language

Hawaiʻi Sign Language
Hawaii Pidgin Sign Language
Native to Hawaii
Native speakers
40; virtually extinct; a few elderly signers are bilingual with the dominant ASL (2013)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 hps
Glottolog hawa1235[2]

Hawaiʻi Sign Language (HSL), also known as Old Hawaiʻi Sign Language or Hawaiʻi Pidgin Sign Language, is an indigenous sign language used in Hawaiʻi. Although historical records document its presence on the islands since the 1820s, it was not described by linguists until 2013.[1][3] Now largely supplanted by American Sign Language (ASL), it is almost extinct and is used only by a few elderly people, who are bilingual in ASL. Although previously believed to be related to ASL,[4] the two languages are in fact unrelated.[3]

The term pidgin in some names used for HSL is due to its association with the spoken language Hawaiʻi Pidgin. HSL is not itself a pidgin,[5] nor even related to Hawaiʻi Pidgin. For this reason, linguists who have begun to document the language prefer the name Hawaiʻi Sign Language,[3] and that is the name used for it in ISO 639-3 as of 2014.[6]

Village sign use, by both deaf and hearing, is attested from 1820. There's the possibility of influence from immigrant sign later that century, though HSL has little in common today with ASL or other languages. The establishment of a school for the deaf in 1914 strengthened the use of sign among the students. However, the introduction of ASL in 1941 in place of purely oral instruction resulted in a shift to that language.


  1. ^ a b
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  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^ Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[1]
  5. ^
  6. ^

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