Does Baby Sign Language hurt speech development?

I get this question often, it is probably the most common concern that people have surrounding signing with children.  The answer to this is 100% no!  There have been zero studies that have shown signing to hinder language.  In fact, all of the studies on signing with children show that signing accelerates language in many cases.  People confuse speech and language.  A child who signs is using language, more language in fact than a non-signing child.  Speech is the ability to form sounds to produce the language.  Some children don’t develop the ability to speak until much later than other children.  The reality is babies want to talk, they babble all the time.  When they are able to talk, they will.  It is not easier to sign than talk.  It is much easier for a child to talk.  However, when you don’t have that ability then signing is easier and a great bridge until speech does develop.
I think this concern came from a number of places. People not having full understanding of the language and are afraid that children will be lazy and depend on signing.  I’ve always heard that someone has a friend of a friend whose child was signed to and they didn’t talk until they were 2.  But the reality is that child wouldn’t have talked until they were two anyway.  The one thing does not equal the other.
Imagine, you have two children and they both don’t talk until they are two.  You sign with the first child and not with the second.  The first child is able to easily communicate with you and use 50 plus words easily, all while building more and more vocabulary until the age of two.  The second child is only able to use pointing and sounds to let you know what he wants.  When both children start talking at two, who did you think would have the larger vocabulary?  Obviously the child who was signed to because he’s used language in a more advanced way through his two years of life.  Plus the adults around him are probably talking to him in more advanced sentences than the second child because we know that the child comprehends what we are saying.
Parents should have zero concern that signing would have any hindrance in their child’s language development.