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World Color Survey cover

World Color Survey

Paul Kay, Brent Berlin, Luisa Maffi, William R. Merrifield, and Richard Cook

The 1969 publication of Brent Berlin and Paul Kay's Basic Color Terms (also available from CSLI Publications) proved explosive and controversial. Contrary to the then-popular doctrine of random language variation, Berlin and Kay's multilingual study of color nomenclature indicated a cross-cultural and almost universal pattern in the selection of colors that received abstract names in each language. The ensuing debate helped reform the views of anthropologists, linguists, and psychologists alike.

After four decades in print, Basic Color Terms now has a sequel: in this book, Kay, Berlin, Luisa Maffi, William R. Merrifield, and Richard S. Cook authoritatively extend the original survey, studying 110 additional unwritten languages in detail and in situ. The results are presented even more clearly than before, with charts showing the overall palette of color terms within each language as well as the levels of agreement among speakers. The raw data are also available online.

Paul Kay is Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, University of California at Berkley and Senior Research Scientist at International Computer Science Institute at Berkley. Brent Berlin is Graham Perdue Professor of Anthropology and Director of Center for Latin American and Carribean Studdies, University of Georgia, Athens. Luisa Maffi is Director of Terralingua, Washington, D.C. The late Professor William Merrifield was a member of SIL International and taught at the University of Texas, Dallas. Richard Cook is a researcher at International Computer Science Institute. University of California, Berkley.

Translated into Japanese.


  • Section 1
    • A brief history of modern research on color naming across languages
      • Evolutionary development of putative universal categories
      • Seven Stages
      • Adjacency in subjective color space
    • Composite Category Rule
      • Composite Categories Predicted by Adjacency
    • The UE hypotheses of universality and evolution
    • The WCS Data to be Accounted For
      • Types and Evolutionary Stages of Basic Color Term Systems

  • Section 2
    • The WCS: Methodology and Analysis
    • Data processing and analysis
    • How to read the individual language data
      • Language Information
      • Color Terms
      • Aggregate Naming Arrays
      • Ties Tables and Term Maps
      • Speakers Table
      • Invidual Naming Arrays
    • Deciding if a color term is basic and assigning a basic stage

  • Section 3
    • Findings
    • Partition
    • Principles of color term universals and evolution
    • Black and White
    • Warm and Cool
    • Red
    • The WCS Data to be Accounted For
    • The Main Line Basic Color Term Evolution
      • Five Evolutionary Trajectories of Basic Color Term Systems
      • Main Line of Evolutionary Development
      • Accounting for the Main LIne of Color Term Evolution
        • Stage I
        • From Stage I to Stage II
        • From Stage II to Stage IIIG/Bu
        • From Stage IIIG/Bu to Stage IVG/Bu
        • From Stage IVG/Bu to Stage V
        • Less Frequent Evolutionary Trajectories
    • Predictions of the Model for Non-Partition (EH) Languages
    • The ResiduePredicted: Y/G/Bu Terms
    • The Yellow-Green Mystery Resolved?
    • Mopping Up: Four EH Languages?
    • Summary

  • Section 4
    • References

  • Section 5
    • The 110 World Color Survey Languages: Data and Analyses

  • Appendices
    • 1. Original WCS Instructions to Field Workers
    • 2. Sample WCS Coding Sheets (Chiquitano
    • 3. Munsell Notation for WCS Stimulus Palette
    • 4.WCS Munsell Color Chip Mapping Table.

March 2010 (January 2011 for Paperback edition)

ISBN (Cloth): 1575864150 (9781575864150)
ISBN (Paper): 1575864169 (9781575864167)
ISBN (Electronic): 1575866935 (9781575864167)

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