Rennellese Sign Language

Rennellese Sign Language
Native to Solomon Islands
Extinct ca. 2000
none (home sign)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog renn1236[1]

Rennellese Sign Language is an extinct form of home sign documented from Rennell Island in 1974.[2] It was developed about 1915 by a deaf person named Kagobai and used by his hearing family and friends, but apparently died with him; he was the only deaf person on the island, and there never was an established, self-replicating community of signers. Accordingly, in January 2017 its ISO 639-3 code [rsi] was retired.[3]


Wittmann (1991)[4] proposed that RSL was a language isolate (a 'prototype' sign language), though one developed through stimulus diffusion from an existing sign language. However, his classification presupposes that it was a full language, which is almost certainly not the case, and Kuschel[2] (the only source of information about this communication system) cites no evidence to suggest that there was any contact with any sign language.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Rennellese Sign Language". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. 1 2 Kuschel, Rolf (1974). A Lexicon of Signs from a Polynesian Outliner Island: A Description of 217 Signs as Developed and Used by Kagobai, the Only Deaf-Mute of Rennell Island (PDF). København: Københavns Universitet. pp. 187 pages. ISBN 9788750015062. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  3. ISO 639-3 Registration Authority. "Change request documentation for: 2016-002". ISO 639-3. SIL International. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  4. Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.
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