Ka'apor Sign Language

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Urubu Sign Language
Urubu–Ka'apor Sign Language
Native to Brazil
Region Maranhão
Ethnicity Kaapor people
Native speakers
unknown: 7 monolingual deaf cited (1968)[1]
about 500 hearing signers
Language codes
ISO 639-3 uks
Glottolog urub1243[2]

Urubu Sign Language (also known as Urubu–Ka'apor or Ka'apor Sign Language) is a village sign language used by the small community of Ka'apor people in the state of Maranhão. Linguist Jim Kakumasu observed in 1968 that the number of deaf people in the community was 7 out of a population of 500. This relatively high ratio of deafness (1 in 75) has led to both hearing and deaf members of the community using the language, and most hearing children grow up bilingual in the spoken and signed languages. Other Indigenous tribes in the region have also been reported to use sign languages, and to communicate between themselves using sign language pidgins.

Notable features of Urubu Sign Language are its object–subject–verb word order, and its locating of the past in front of the signer and the future behind, in contrast to sign languages of European origin, including American Sign Language, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language. Kyle and Woll (1985) speculate that this is represents a world view of the past as something visible, and the future as unknowable.

Kakumasu noted several features which sign language linguists today recognise as common to other sign languages, such as the use of name signs. Conditional and imperative grammatical moods are marked by non-manual features such as a widening of the eyes and tensing of facial muscles. Questions are marked with a question sign either before or after the clause, described as "a motion of the index finger towards the referent (addressee) with a slight wrist twist."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Urubu Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Urubu-Kaapor Sign Language". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  • Kakumasu, Jim (1968). Urubu Sign Language. In "International Journal of American Linguistics". republished in "Aboriginal Sign Languages of the Americas and Australia, Vol. 2, Part II: South America", starting on page 247. [download available here]
  • Kakamasu, Jim (1978). Urubu Sign Language, in Aboriginal sign languages of the Americas and Australia. New York: Plenum Press, v.2, p. 247-253.
  • Ferreiro-Brito, L.(1983). A Comparative Study of Signs for Time and Space in São Paulo and Urubu-Kaapor Sign Language, in W. Stokoe & V. Volterra (eds.), SLPR' 83. Proceedings of the 3rd. International Symposium on Sign Language Research, Rome, June 22–26, 1983, Rome & SiverSpring: CNR & Linstok Press.
  • Kyle, J.G. & B. Woll. (1985). Sign Language: The Study of Deaf People and Their Language. Cambridge: CUP.