Sign-spatiality in Kata Kolok: How a village sign language in Bali inscribes its signing space

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In a small village in the north of Bali called Bengkala, relatively many people inherit deafness. The Balinese therefore refer to this village as Desa Kolok, which means textquotesingledeaf village the sign language of this village, and the ways in which the language recruits space to talk about both spatial and non-spatial matters. he small village community Bengkala in the north of Bali has almost 3,000 inhabitants. Of all the inhabitants, 57 with varying degrees of fluency. But of this signing community (between 1,200 and 1,800 signers, depending on your definition of textquotesinglesigner, only 4 not only do the deaf people of Bengkala use the sign language Kata Kolok, but also the majority of the hearing population. "I Europe, and also some signers in America," says Connie de Vos of MPI and Centre for Language Studies (RU). "What sets apart this particular deaf village is that deaf individuals are highly integrated within the village clans. There is really a huge proportion of hearing signers." The sign language currently functions in all major aspects of village life and has been acquired from birth by multiple generations of deaf, native signers. According to De Vos, Kata Kolok is a fully-fledged sign language in every sense of the word. As a collaborative project, she has initiated inclusive deaf education within the village and now Kata Kolok is used as the primary language of instruction. De Voscalled "absolute frame of reference", based on geographic locations and wind directions. "All sign languages, as we know, use relative constructions for spatial relations. They use signs comparable to words like textquotesinglelefttextquotesingle and textquotesinglerighttextquotesingle instead of textquotesingleeasttextquotesingle and textquotesinglewesttextquotesingle. Kata Kolok does the latter. Kata Kolok signers appear to have an internal compass to continually register their position in space."De Vos is the first sign linguist who has documented Kata Kolok extensively. She spent more than a year in the village and collected over a hundred hours of video material of spontaneous conversations. "One of the things Itextquotesingleve noticed is that language doesn" she says. "Signers adopt a local gesture system and transform it into a new and much more systematic sign language. A lot of the signs refer to concepts theytextquotesinglere familiar with. Thattextquotesingles why hearing signers have no difficulties in picking up Kata Kolok. Kata Kolok unites the hearing and the deaf.
Original languageEnglish
  • Levinson, Stephen C., Promotor, External person
  • Enfield, N. J., Promotor, External person
  • Zeshan, Ulrike, Promotor, External person
Place of PublicationNijmegen
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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