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

de Vos, Connie (2011) Kata Kolok color terms and the emergence of lexical signs in rural signing communities. The Senses & Society, 6 (1). pp. 68-76. ISSN 1745-8927

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Official URL: http:dx.doi.org/10.2752/174589311X12893982233795


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 article describes the color lexicon of a rural sign language called Kata Kolok that emerged approximately one and a half centuries 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. These comparisons support the finding that rural sign languages like Kata Kolok fail to provide the societal pressures for the lexicon to expand further.

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