Print

Print


On Wednesday, April 21, 2004, at 12:25 PM, John Cowan wrote:

> Ray Brown scripsit:
>
>> But this has nothing to do with the so-called 'universals' of
>> color-naming.
>>  I don't recall them off-hand but I seem to remember they're along the
>> lines of: if a language has only two color-words, it will distinguish
>> this
>> group & that group; if it has three it will distinguish X, Y, X; if it
>> has
>> 4, it will distinguish W, X, Y, z..etc.
>
> Exactly.  And rather than asking "Where are the boundaries of X", we ask
> "Which of these samples is the best example of X?"  When we do that,
> we find that:
>
> 	languages with 2 basic color words have "white" and "black";
> 	languages with 3 basic color words have also "red";
> 	languages with 4 basic color words have also either "green" or
> "yellow"
> 	languages with 5 basic color terms have both "green" and "yellow"
> 	languages with 6 basic color terms have also "blue"
> 	languages with 7 basic color terms have also "brown"

Thanks - that's the list of 'universals' that I was half-remembering

So English conforms with certainly these 7 basic terms, and Welsh I guess
we should say conforms to 6 basic terms ('brown' is, I think, a relatively
recent borrowing - 'brown sugar' is traditionally "siwgr coch", i.e. 'red
sugar', tho I understand 'siwgr brown' is commonly used now).

white ~ black	gwyn ~ du
red				coch
yellow			melyn
green			gwyrdd
blue			glas

> When I say that a language has a word for "white", I mean that the
> best example of the color named by that term is white.
> This is much more reliable than judgments about color boundaries, which
> vary between individuals.

Yes, I recall many a fruitless argument over whether a certain color was
green or blue - I'd usually compromise with 'turquoise' or now-a-days
'cyan'  :)
I've also encountered arguments at the other boundary whether something is
yellow or green. As you rightly say, the boundaries vary not only between
cultures but between undividuals.

> The major deviation from these rules is that some languages don't
> discriminate between blue and green.

But Welsh ain't one of them. It's just that some things traditionally fall
one a different side of the green-blue boundary than is usual in English.

> Russian has two words for "blue"
> (corresponding psychologically to the English distinction between
> "red" and "pink").

Seems fair enough to me. I'd not be surprised to find languages with two
words for "green" with similar psychological distinction.

Ray
===============================================
http://home.freeuk.com/ray.brown
[log in to unmask]    (home)
[log in to unmask]   (work)
===============================================
"A mind which thinks at its own expense will always
interfere with language."         J.G. Hamann, 1760