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."