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    Stanlaw, James 2010. Language, contact, and vantages: fifteen hundred years of Japanese color terms. Language Sciences, Vol. 32, Issue. 2, p. 196.

    Saunders, B.A.C. and Brakel, J. van 2002. The Trajectory of Color. Perspectives on Science, Vol. 10, Issue. 3, p. 302.

    Dedrick, Don 1996. Color language universality and evolution: On the explanation for basic color terms. Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 9, Issue. 4, p. 497.

    Saunders, Barbara 1994. TheIgnis Fatuusof Colour. Art History, Vol. 17, Issue. 3, p. 494.

    Moss, A.E. 1989. Basic colour terms: Problems and hypotheses. Lingua, Vol. 78, Issue. 4, p. 313.

    Corbett, Greville and Morgan, Gerry 1988. Colour terms in Russian: reflections of typological constraints in a single language. Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 24, Issue. 01, p. 31.

    Zollinger, Heinrich 1979. Correlations between the neurobiology of colour vision and the psycholinguistics of colour naming. Experientia, Vol. 35, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Sampson, Geoffrey 1978. Linguistic universals as evidence for empiricism. Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 14, Issue. 02, p. 183.


Colour and colour terminology

  • N. B. McNeill (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 28 November 2008

The continuous gradation of colour which exists in nature is represented in language by a series of discrete categories. Athough there is no such thing as a natural division of the spectrum, every language has colour words by which its speakers categorize and structure the colour continuum. The number of colour words and the manner in which different languages classify the colour continuum differ. Bassa, a language of Liberia, has only two terms for classifying colours; hui and ziza (Gleason, 1955: 5). Hui corresponds roughly to the cool end of the spectrum (black, violet, blue, and green) and ziza corresponds to the warm end of the spectrum (white, yellow, orange and red); in Bambara, one of the languages of the Congo area, there are three fundamental colour words: dyema, blema and fima (Zahan, 1951: 52). Dyema includes white, beige, and natural (cotton) colour; blema denotes reddish, brownish shades; and finally fima includes dark green, indigo and black. Maerz and Paul (1930) list over 3000 colour names in English, but generally it is considered to have eight basic names: black, white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

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A. S. Gatschet (1879). Adjectives of color in Indian languages. The American naturalist 13, 8: 475485.

R. S. Woodworth (1910). The puzzle of color vocabularies. The psychological bulletin, 7, 10. 325334.

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Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0022-2267
  • EISSN: 1469-7742
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-linguistics
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