Kata Kolok color terms and the emergence of lexical signs in rural signing communities

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How do new languages develop systematic ways to talk about sensory experiences, such as color? To what extent is the evolution of color terms guided by societal factors? This paper describes the color lexicon of a rural sign language called Kata Kolok which emerged approximately one century ago in a Balinese village. Kata Kolok has four color signs: black, white, red and a blue-green term. In addition, two non-conventionalized means are used to provide color descriptions: naming relevant objects, and pointing to objects in the vicinity. Comparison with Balinese culture and spoken Balinese brings to light discrepancies between the systems, suggesting that neither cultural practices nor language contact have driven the formation of color signs in Kata Kolok. The few lexicographic investigations from other rural sign languages report limitations in the domain of color. On the other hand, larger, urban signed languages have extensive systems, for example, Australian Sign Language has up to nine color terms (Woodward 1989: 149). These comparisons support the finding that, rural sign languages like Kata Kolok fail to provide the societal pressures for the lexicon to expand further.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-76
Number of pages9
JournalThe Senses Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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