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Kata Kolok

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Title: Kata Kolok  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Sign language, Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, Nicaraguan Sign Language, Fingerspelling, Nepali Sign Language
Collection: Languages of Indonesia, Sign Language, Village Sign Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Kata Kolok

Kata Kolok (literally "deaf talk"), also known as Benkala Sign Language and Balinese Sign Language, is a village sign language which is indigenous to two neighbouring villages in northern Bali, Indonesia. The main village, Bengkala, has had high incidences of deafness for over 7 generations. Notwithstanding the biological time depth of the recessive mutation that causes deafness, the first substantial cohort of deaf signers did not occur until five generations ago, and this event marks the emergence of Kata Kolok (de Vos 2012).

Kata Kolok is unrelated to spoken Balinese and lacks certain contact sign phenomena that often arise when a sign language and an oral language are in close contact, such as fingerspelling and mouthing. It is also unrelated to other sign languages. It differs from other known sign languages in a number of respects: Signers make extensive use of cardinal directions and real-world locations to organize the signing space, and they do not use a metaphorical “time line” for time reference. Kata Kolok is the only known sign language which predominantly deploys the absolute Frame of Reference.

Deaf people in the village express themselves using special cultural forms such as deaf dance and martial arts and occupy special ritual and social roles, including digging graves and maintaining water pipes. Deaf and hearing villagers alike share a belief in a deaf god.

The sign language has been acquired by at least five generations of deaf, native signers and features in all aspects of village life, including political, professional, educational, and religious settings. The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (MPI) and the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies have archived over 100 hours of Kata Kolok video data. The metadata of this corpus are accessible online (see


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  • Branson, J., Miller, D., & Marsaja, I. G. (1999). Sign Languages as Natural Part of the Linguistic Mosaic: The Impact of Deaf People on Discourse Forms in Northern Bali, Indonesia. In E. Winston (Ed.), Storytelling and Conversation (Vol. 5). Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.
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  • Kortschak, Irfan (2010). "Everyone Speaks Deaf Talk" In: Kortschak, Irfan (2010): Invisible People: Poverty and Empowerment in Indonesia, The Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • Liang, Y., Wang, A., Probst, F. J., Arhya, I. N., Barber, T. D., Chen, K.-S., et al. (1998). Genetic Mapping Refines DFNB3 to 17p11.2, Suggests Multiple Alleles of DFNB3, and Supports Homology to the Mouse Model shaker-2. American Journal of Human Genetics, 62, 904-915.
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  • Perniss, P., & Zeshan, U. (2008). Possessive and existential constructions in Kata Kolok. In P. Perniss & U. Zeshan (Eds.), Possessive and existential constructions in
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