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					         COLOR CATEGORIES IN
       THOUGHT AND LANGUAGE




the rainbow is a continuum of photons sorted by frequency, but perceptually it is a display
of sharply distinguishable colors: nature presents a continuum, but we perceive in categories.
colour wheel
                     Introduction
   Colors are important in mankind’s perception of the
    world. Consequently it is not surprising that colors will
    find their way into language in the form of color
    metaphors.
   Color is a property of light that depends on wavelength. When
    light falls on an object, some of it is absorbed and some is
    reflected.
   Two different views dominate the discussion about
    color terminology:universalists and relativists.
   Scholars like Wierzbicka (1980) strongly stand behind
    the idea that each word is loaded with cultural and
    historical meanings, associations.
   Other researchers like Berlin and Kay (1969) use
    physical stimuli and the possible universality of
    linguistic and cognitive processes in their theory. They
    claim that focal meanings of basic color terms are
    substantially similar in all languages, suggesting a
    universal color system based on direct physical stimuli.
   Our research shows that color terminology is not based
    only on observation, stimuli, but more on symbolic,
    cultural meaning, e.g. a black box. In reality a black box
    is not necessarily black. It is usually orange or yellow.
   Green finger is not green. It simply means that we have a
    gift to seed the plants.
   Obviously, these phrases (green finger, black box) are not
    supported by our direct sensual experiences.
   Languages contain different numbers of color
    names and carve up the spectrum somewhat
    differently.
   Therefore, we maintain that language is not a
    mere mirror of our reality.
   Our sensual experience is cognitively modified
    in our neural area and the final result is a
    combination of our neural responses and social
    and cultural constraints.
   Color has long been used as a symbol of various
    cultural models of behaviour.
   A well-known use of the symbolism of color is
    in the liturgical colors of the Christian church,
    e.g. purple=Advent and Lent, white = Easter,
    red= feasts of the martyrs.
   Many other religions evoke color symbolism,
    too.
            Berlin and Kay (1969)
   the evolutionary sequence proposed by Berlin and Kay
    (1969): white and black→ red →green or
    yellow→green and yellow →blue, brown, purple, pink,
    orange, gray.
   Berlin and Kay (1969) also found evidence suggesting
    that there is a standard order in which basic color terms
    are added to languages.
   If a language has only two color terms, they refer to
    dark and light colors. If a third basic color term is
    added, it refers to red.
   BLACK
                   cold colors/dark
   Negative (-)   short wavelength

                   BLUE (+/-)
   dark/cold      GREEN (+/-)




                     warm colors/light
WHITE                long wavelength

positive (+)             RED (+/-)

light/warm
                          YELLOW (+/-)
                BLACK / WHITE,
   Our first binary level includes two colors, black and white,
    considered to be two extremes (antonyms): light/dark,
    positive/negative.
   One color evokes strong emotions (black) and the other is quite
    neutral (white).
   Black is a color that absorbs all light falling on it, so that it is the
    perceived effect of zero reflection from a given surface.
   White, on the other hand, is the color perceived when a surface
    reflects a selection of colors from the spectrum which combine to
    give the effect of brighteness but zero color.
   The distinguishing semantic component of white is, roughly, +
    light, whereas of black it is –light.
                RED/YELLOW
   The second binary level refers to two interchangeable
    colors: red and yellow.
   Both colors are considered to be warm, and their
    associated words are heat and light. They differ from
    the first level colors as they are interchangeable and
    they include ambiguous associations: positive and
    negative.
   In different cultures one color might be used instead of
    the other, e.g. sun → red (Japanese culture), sun
    →yellow (in the majority of European cultures).
                BLUE/GREEN
   Third level colors (blue-green) are perceived as cold,
    interchangeable pair of words.
   In many languages speakers do not make a clear
    distinction between these two colors.
   In Sudanese Arabic axdar (=green) meant both light blue
    and green.
   In Japanese culture it is used interchangeably. Fresh
    vegetables are defined as blue, and the traffic lights are
    seen as blue.
   Sometimes these two colors overlap referring to the same
    reality, e.g. Navajo speakers merge blue and green into
    one word.
   the subject was shown a ring of 12 squares
    surrounding the fixation point. Eleven of the twelve
    square were the same color, and one (in a random
    location) was a different color.
          COMPLEX COLORS
   Fourth level colors refers to complex colors or
    combination of two colors, e.g. orange
    (yellow+red)
BROWN      ORANGE   PINK    PURPLE   GREY

YELLOW     YELLOW   RED     BLUE     BLACK
+          +        +       +        +
BLACK      RED      WHITE   RED      WHITE
                     BINARISM
   Our binary model of colors is based on physical
    characteristics of colors (the length of waves), e.g.
   green and blue are products of short light-waves, and
    thus appear darker. The feature of darkness (short light
    waves) connects these two colors.
   The colors red and yellow are perceptual products of
    long light waves and they are perceived as warm and
    light.
   Black and white are not generally considered true
    colors; black is said to result from the absence of color,
    and white from the presence of all colors mixed
    together. They are an antonymous pair of words.
    COLORFUL METAPHORS AND
           PHRASES
   We describe ourselves and our behavior using
    colors. When we are happy we are tinkled pink
    and greet the world with flying colors. Envious
    people turn green, and cowards are yellow in the
    face of danger. Sometimes we see pink elephants
    or we might be in a brown study. We call our
    language blue when we speak in a profane way.
   In political rhetoric color is often used to convey
    a message.
   It is obvious that color terms in phrases and
    proverbs have additional meaning besides their
    reference to the color itself.
   The names of colors very often have a symbolic
    connotational value based on folk concepts or
    collective memory.
                                Black
   Black as sadness, grief, deep mourning, pessimisms, anguish,
    misfortune, evil, unconscious state, and death
   a black economy (business activity and income which people do not
    record in order to avoid paying tax on it)
   a black eye (an eye where the skin around it has gone dark because it
    has been hit), e.g. He had a fight at school and came home with a
    black eye.
   black hole (an imaginary place in which things are lost)
   black humour (an amusing way of looking at or treating something
    that is serious or sad)
   a black look (when your face is full of anger and hate), e.g. She gave
    me a black look.
   black magic (a type of magic that is believed to use evil spirits to do
    harmful things)
   Referring to two basic color terms, black and
    white, our free association test shows that in the
    majority of European languages black is
    associated with dark, mystery, evil, night, etc.
    Dominant associations are negative. Black and
    white are perceived as two extreme sides:
    positive-negative, light-dark, warm and cold.
    Dark and cool colors are: black, green and blue.
    Warm and bright colors are: white, yellow, red
                   WHITE
   White as purity, innocence, chastity,
    recognition, cowardice, defeat
   candidate (Lat. candidus=white, pure,
    sincere)
   white hair (old person)
   white handed (an honest man)
   a white wedding (a symbol of purity)
                              GREEN
green as vegetation, youth, envy, jealousy, freshness and permission.
 to be green about/around the gills (to look ill, as if you are going to
   vomit), e.g. He was out drinking last night, was he? I thought he looked a bit
   green about the gills this morning.
 to be green with envy (to wish very much that you had something that
   another person has), e.g. Sharon's going off to the south of France for three
   weeks and we're all green with envy.
 to give sb/sth the green light (to give permission for someone to do
   something or for something to happen), e.g. They've just been given the
   green light to build two new supermarkets in the region.
 to get the green light (As soon as we get the green light from the council
   we'll start building.)
 to
 have green fingers (American have a green thumb (to be good at keeping
   plants healthy and making them grow),
                       BLUE

   blue as nobility, aristocracy, sadness, depression,
    something unexpected, rare, truthful, sexual
   scream/shout blue murder (to show your
    annoyance about something, especially by shouting or
    complaining very loudly
   once in a blue moon (rarely),
   out of the blue (If something happens out of the
    blue, it is completely unexpected),
   blues (a type of slow, sad music, originally from the
    southern US
                    YELLOW
   yellow as cowardice, jealousy, and false
    information
   yellow looks (jealousy)
   to be yellow (afraid)
   yellow journalism (writing in newspapers that
    try to get people's attention or influence their
    opinions by using strong language or false
    information)
                            RED
   RED as fire, blood, love, spirit, beauty, strength, health,
    energy, joy, sex, success, anger, courage and patriotism
   to paint the town red (to go out and enjoy yourself in the
    evening, often drinking a lot of alcohol and dancing),
   red-hot (very exciting or successful),
   red-blooded (a red-blooded man has a lot of energy and enjoys
    sex very much),
   the red-light district (the part of a city where many people
    offer sex for money),
   to be in the red (to owe money to a bank),
   to see red (to become very angry )
              CONCLUSION
   In our sample of proverbs and phrases black,
    white and red are the most frequent colors with
    the largest map of reference.
   Our perception of color depends not only upon
    our ability to see the color, but also on our
    ability to decode it within a framework of our
    cultural constraints and associations.
   Binarism is viewed as consisting of two partially
    independent chromatic channels (warm and
    cold), organized in a sequence, which is based
    on the following model: white/black→ red/
    yellow→green/blue, and complex colors like
    brown, purple, pink, orange, and gray.

				
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posted:9/9/2011
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