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On Wed, 05 Jun 2002 07:03, Tim May wrote:
<snip>
>  > > Okay, now here's a conlang question--how do your
>  > > conlangs deal with colour?
<snip>
> http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_168b.html
>
> I'll quote the relevant section here
>
>
> !So what does explain the variations? That's still a matter of
> !dispute. The majority view, I would venture to say, is that the
> !designation of colors in different cultures is totally arbitrary. For
> !instance, H.A. Gleason notes, "There is a continuous gradation of
> !color from one end of the spectrum to the other. Yet an American
> !describing it will list the hues as red, orange, yellow, green, blue,
> !purple, or something of the kind. There is nothing inherent either in
> !the spectrum or the human perception of it which would compel its
> !division in this way" (An Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics,
> !1961). Similarly, Verne Ray says "there is no such thing as a natural
> !division of the spectrum. Each culture has taken the spectral
> !continuum and has divided it up on a basis which is quite arbitrary"
> !("Techniques and Problems in the Study of Human Color Perception,"
> !Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 1952).
> !
> !More recent research, however, suggests that color terminology may not
> !be so arbitrary after all. Brent Berlin and Paul Kay (Basic Color
> !Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, 1969), to whom Cecil is
> !indebted for much of the preceding discussion, suggest that there is a
> !remarkable degree of uniformity in the way different cultures assign
> !color names. In a study of 98 languages from a variety of linguistic
> !families, they found the following "rules" seem to apply:
> !
> !1. All languages contain terms for white and black.
> !
> !2. If a language contains three terms, then it contains a term for
> !   red.
> !
> !3. If a language contains four terms, then it contains a term for
> !   either green or yellow (but not both).
> !
> !4. If a language contains five terms, then it contains terms for both
> !   green and yellow.
> !
> !5. If a language contains six terms, then it contains a term for blue.
> !
> !6. If a language contains seven terms, then it contains a term for
> !   brown.
> !
> !7. If a language contains eight or more terms, then it contains a term
> !   for purple, pink, orange, grey, or some combination of these.
> !
> !Berlin and Kay also found that the number of basic color terms tends
> !to increase with the complexity of the civilization. They speculated
> !that this explains the relative poverty of color terminology among the
> !ancients--e.g., the Greeks had terms only for black, white, yellow,
> !and red because theirs was a relatively uncomplicated culture, at
> !least from a technological standpoint. But Berlin and Kay admit they
> !don't know why the "rules" should operate as they do. For more detail,
> !check out their book.
>
> I seem to remember seeing somewhere that the fundamental colour groups
> were always centered on the same wavelengths, but I could be imagining
> it.  It may have been in Pinker's _How the Mind Works_, but I couldn't
> say for sure that it even discusses the matter.
<snip>

That's interesting.  I haven't really put any thought into the question,
since I'm making my conlangs up as I go along, but obviously the language
spoken by a spotted hyena-style predator isn't going to focus on the colours
of the flowers, a la us homines sapientes, who are after all diversivores -
we'll eat anything, given the right incentive.

I've already got two colour bases :

akh = bone, ergo : lainyaakh = bonecolour = white;
brech = blood, ergo : lainyabrechatu = bloodycolour = red;
lainyabrechanti = bloodiedcolour, dried-bloodcolour = black;

I could probably make the Lakhabrech identify various other hues such as
skincolour - and that dependent on the particular prey, eg :

seleuk = big greyish beast akin to the elephant; lainyaseleuk  =
seleukcolour, grey;

pria = horse-sized brownish/faun-coloured beast akin to elephant, with two
pairs of tusks for rooting; lainyapria = priacoloured, brown, faun;

And that brings in another point of comparison - shawi = jaws, teeth.  New
teeth, old teeth, bleached teeth, etc.  I'll have to look into that,
obviously.

Wesley Parish
--
Mau e ki, "He aha te mea nui?"
You ask, "What is the most important thing?"
Maku e ki, "He tangata, he tangata, he tangata."
I reply, "It is people, it is people, it is people."