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Absolute spatial deixis and proto-toponyms in Kata Kolok

De Vos, C. (2014). Absolute spatial deixis and proto-toponyms in Kata Kolok. NUSA: Linguistic studies of languages in and around Indonesia, 56, 3-26.
This paper presents an overview of spatial deictic structures in Kata Kolok, a sign language which is indigenous to a Balinese village community. Sociolinguistic surveys and lexicographic comparisons have indicated that Kata Kolok is unrelated to the signing varieties in other parts of Bali and should be considered a sign language isolate as such. Kata Kolok emerged five generations ago and has been in intimate contact with spoken Balinese from its incipience. The findings from this paper suggest that this cross-modal contact has led to an absolute construction of the signing space, which is radically different in comparison to spatial deixis in other sign languages. Furthermore, Kata Kolok does not seem to have a class of true toponyms, but rather deploys deictic proto-toponyms. The Kata Kolok system on the whole does not exhibit any related linguistic forms or direct calques from spoken Balinese, and this suggests that the conceptual overlap between these two languages may have been facilitated by shared cultural practices as well as gestural communication rather than direct borrowings. Ultimately, this analysis challenges the very notion of a sign language isolate and suggests that Kata Kolok and other emergent signing varieties should be considered in light of the broader semiotic context in which they have evolved.

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