A sign language (also signed language or simply signing) is a language which uses manual communication and body language to convey meaning, as opposed to acoustically conveyed sound patterns. This can involve simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's thoughts. They share many similarities with spoken languages (sometimes called "oral languages", which depend primarily on sound), which is why linguists consider both to be natural languages, but there are also some significant differences between signed and spoken languages.
Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have been developed. Signing is not only used by the deaf, it is also used by people who can hear, but cannot physically speak. While they use space for grammar in a way that spoken languages do not, sign languages show the same linguistic properties and use the same language faculty as do spoken languages. Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world and are at the cores of local deaf cultures. Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all.
A common misconception is that all sign languages are the same worldwide or that sign language is international. Aside from the pidgin International Sign, each country generally has its own, native sign language, and some have more than one, though sign languages may share similarities to each other, whether in the same country or another one.