This article gives a first overview of the sign language situation in Mali and its capital, Bamako, located in the West African Sahel. Mali is a highly multilingual country with a significant incidence of deafness, for which meningitis appears to be the main cause, coupled with limited access to adequate health care. In comparison to neighboring countries, the first school for deaf children was established relatively late—in 1995. Various sign languages have been used in Malian deaf education, but, following the regional trend, the schools for deaf children eventually settled for a variety of ASL adapted to French. The vast majority of Malian signers have not received formal education, however, and have no or only limited command of ASL. They use various forms of the local sign language, Malian Sign Language (Langue des Signes Malienne, LSM). The best-documented variety of LSM is the one used in Bamako, for which a dictionary and an annotated corpus exist. Another annotated corpus has been compiled for several varieties found in the Dogon area. Ambivalent attitudes are found in the deaf community with regard to the value and linguistic status of LSM and ASL, which pose a threat to the continued use of LSM, and deaf Malians are found to switch to ASL in areas in contact with deaf education or with formally educated signers.


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pp. 126-150
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