We investigated whether access to a sign language affects the development of pragmatic competence in three groups of deaf children aged 6 to 11 years: native signers from deaf families receiving bimodal/bilingual instruction, native signers from deaf families receiving oralist instruction and late signers from hearing families receiving oralist instruction. The performance of these children was compared to a group of hearing children aged 6 to 7 years on a test designed to assess sensitivity to violations of conversational maxims. Native signers with bimodal/bilingual instruction were as able as the hearing children to detect violations that concern truthfulness (Maxim of Quality) and relevance (Maxim of Relation). On items involving these maxims, they outperformed both the late signers and native signers attending oralist schools. These results dovetail with previous findings on mindreading in deaf children and underscore the role of early conversational experience and instructional setting in the development of pragmatics.