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Basic Color Terms cover

Basic Color Terms

Their Universality and Evolution

Brent Berlin and Paul Kay

The work reported in this monograph was begun in the winter of 1967 in a graduate seminar at Berkeley. Many of the basic data were gathered by members of the seminar and the theoretical framework presented here was initially developed in the context of the seminar discussions.

Much has been discovered since 1969, the date of original publication, regarding the psychophysical and neurophysical determinants of universal, cross-linguistic constraints on the shape of basic color lexicons, and something, albeit less, can now also be said with some confidence regarding the constraining effects of these language-independent processes of color perception and conceptualization on the direction of evolution of basic color term lexicons.

Brent Berlin is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Georgia. Paul Kay is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Professor in the Graduate School at the University of Berkley.

Translated into Russian.

(See also The World Color Survey by Paul Kay, Brent Berlin, Luisa Maffi, William R. Merrifield, and Richard Cook)


  • Preface to the Paperback Edition
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1 The Data, Hypothesis, and General Findings

    • 1.1 Procedure
    • 1.2 Defining the concept of basic color term
    • 1.3 Mapping basic color terms
    • 1.4 Universality of basic color terms
    • 1.5 Inter-language versus inter-informant variability
    • 1.6 Category foci versus category boundaries

    2 Evolution of Basic Color Terms

    • 2.1 Basic color lexicon and technological/cultrural complexity
    • 2.2 The seven stages in the evolution of basic color
    • 2.3 Some Typical Systems
      • 2.3.1 Stage I systems
      • 2.3.2 Stage II systems
      • 2.3.3 Stage III systems
      • 2.3.4 Stage IV systems
      • 2.3.5 Stage V systems
      • 2.3.6 Stage VI systems
      • 2.3.7 Stage VII systems
    • 2.4 Internal reconstruction of basic color terms
    • 2.5 Problematical cases

    3 The Data

    • 3.1 Stage I systems
    • 3.2 Stage II systems
    • 3.3 Stage III systems
    • 3.4 Stage IV systems
    • 3.5 Stage V systems
    • 3.6 Stage VI systems
    • 3.7 Stage VII systems

    4 Summary of Results and Some Speculation

  • Appendix I Terms and mappings for twenty experimentally investigated languages
  • Appendix II The growth of color vocabulary: one hundred years of theory
  • Appendix III Alphabetical list of languages treated, indicating stage, number of terms, and source
  • Appendix IV Standard authorities for the orthographies of cited language
  • Notes
  • References Cited
  • Bibliography of Color Categorization Research
  • 1970—1990 by Luisa Maffi
  • Index


ISBN (Paperback): 1575861623 (9781575861623)
ISBN (electronic): 1575867095 (9781575867090)

Subject: Linguistics; Words for Colors

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