Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

NATLANG: Emergent Colours

From:Javier BF <uaxuctum@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 28, 2004, 17:15
On one extreme, there are very broad basic colour terms like
for example the 'grue' terms (green/blue) and the Dani terms
for 'rellite' (red/yellow/white) and 'bleenck' (blue/green/black).
On the opposite extreme, there are basic terms like "pink"
and "orange" whose meaning is rather narrow.

Modern societies seem prone to an ever more specific colour
naming, with imaginative terms for very specific colours
showing up in such everyday settings as schoolchildren crayons.
Several terms of the narrow kind are already considered basic
in Western and other languages; however, there are also some
broad areas of the colour space that are still generally
coverable by one basic term, for example "green" and "blue".

Some people have commented here recently that they find colours
such as "beige" (light brown) and "aqua/turquoise" (light
bluegreen) to be rather basic because they use them frequently
and think they don't fit well within the established categories.
This is not the first time I've encountered similar comments and
I wonder which colours, so far generally regarded as non-basic,
people find as good candidates for new basic colour categories.

For my native Spanish, as I pointed out somewhere else, I find
"granate" (dark red) to be as basic as "rosa" (pink) in my
everyday usage of the term. Ditto for "beis" (beige). A basic
category for dark red wouldn't be a novelty given the "vörös"
vs. "piros" distinction of Hungarian. OTOH, although "fucsia"
(fuchsia, vivid purple-pink) is generally regarded in Spanish
as a kind of "rosa", I find it sufficiently differentiated
from focal pink to possibly deserve its own category, and the
term appears to be gaining popularity. I wouldn't have much
trouble making "lila" (lilac, light purple) independent from
my basic "violeta" (violet, bluish purple), either.

For English, apart from the ones mentioned above, I've
also heard of candidates such as "peach" (light orange)
and "chartreuse" (light yellowgreen). As for the candidate
"aqua/turquoise" vs. "blue", it could be a variant form of
the Russian "goluboj" vs. "sinij" distinction. The emergence
of "peach" and "beige" could be regarded as variant attempts
at a basic category for a light shade between yellow and red.
The finick's choice could be an elaborate partition of that
region into, say, "salmon", "peach", "cream" and "beige/ecru"
for its pinkish, orangish, yellowish and brownish areas,
respectively. Some other candidates might be for example
"maroon" (red-brown), "teal" (dark bluegreen), "olive" (dark
yellowgreen) and "navy" (dark blue). As a colour, I find
"taupe" (grey-brown) to be sufficiently differentiated from
both focal brown and focal grey to deserve a category of
its own, but AFAIK the term is still rather fancy.

So, well, the poll for emergent basic colours is open. ;-)