Colour Language 1: Typology, Psycholinguistics, Neurophysiology Mike Dowman Language and Cognition 3 October, 2005 Colour Week Monday Empirical results: • typology • neurophysiology • psycholinguistics Wednesday • explanations and theories • computer models Thursday • discussion Colour and Colour Words • Colour is a continuous three dimensional space • Colour words denote regions of colour • Is colour naming completely arbitrary? Colour Term Typology There are clear typological patterns in how languages name colour. neurophysiology of vision system or cultural/environmental explanation? • Constraints on learnable languages • or a cultural evolutionary process? Basic Colour Terms Most studies look at a subset of all colour terms: • Terms must be psychologically salient • Known by all speakers • Meanings are not predictable from the meanings of their parts • Don’t name a subset of colours named by another term Number of Basic Terms English has red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, grey, black and white. crimson, blonde, taupe are not basic. All languages have 2 to 11 basic terms • Except Russian and Hungarian • Some people dispute concept of basic colour term The Munsell Array At left is grey scale (including black and white) The rest of the array contains highly saturated colours Prototypes Colour terms have good and marginal examples prototype categories • People disagree about the boundaries of colour word denotations • But agree on the best examples – the prototypes Berlin and Kay (1969) found that this was true both within and across languages. English and Berinmo Colour Mappings Berlin and Kay (1969) Small set of possible colour term systems white black red green yellow blue brown purple pink orange grey Berlin and Kay’s Implicational Hierarchy. 98 Languages in study Only Cantonese, Vietnamese, Western Apache, Hopi, Samal and Papago didn’t fit the hierarchy World Colour Survey 110 minor languages (Kay, Berlin, Merrifield, 1991; Kay et al 1997; Kay and Maffi, 1999) • All surveyed using Munsell arrays Black, white, red, yellow, green and blue seem to be fundamental colours • They are more predictable than derived terms (orange, purple, pink, brown and grey) Evolutionary Trajectories white-red-yellow + black-green-blue white + red-yellow + black-green-blue white + red-yellow + black + green-blue white + red + yellow + black + green-blue white + red + yellow + black + green + blue white + red + yellow + black-green-blue white + red + yellow + green + black-blue white + red + yellow-green-blue + black white + red + yellow-green + blue + black Derived Terms • Brown and purple terms often occur together with green-blue composites • Orange and pink terms don’t usually occur unless green and blue are separate • But sometimes orange occurs without purple • Grey is unpredictable • No attested turquoise or lime basic terms Exceptions and Problems • 83% of languages on main line of trajectory • 25 languages were in transition between stages • 6 languages didn’t fit trajectories at all Kuku-Yalanji (Australia) has no consistent term for green Waorani (Ecuador) has a yellow-white term that does not include red Gunu (Cameroon) contains a black-green-blue composite and a separate blue term Criticism of Kay • Much more variability than Kay suggests – both within and across languages • Criteria for distinguishing basic colour terms don’t work • Colour is often conflated with other properties: texture, variegation, etc. • Colour words can only be understood in relation to the rest of the language • Colour words have religious and cultural significance Saunders (1992), MacLaury (1997a), Levinson (2001), MacKeigan (2005) Colour Term Prototypes Frequency Distribution of 10,644 WCS Colour-term Foci (MacLaury, 1997b) Psychophysics Opponency of red-green and blue-yellow • Unique red and unique green lights of equal strength cancel each other out. A neutral grey colour is perceived. • After staring at a red surface, a green afterimage will be seen Similar effects are observed for yellow and blue Neurophysiology De Valois et al (1966): • There are cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) that respond to either red, yellow, green, blue, black or white, and which are inhibited by the opposite colour. Hypothesis: • The outputs of these cells corresponds to the unique hues – and explains the opponency of red-green and yellow-blue Problems with the Psychophysiological Explanation • The cells which oppose red-green/yellowblue (P-cells) also respond to achromatic light. • None of the red-green P-cells show a response to short wavelength (violet) light • The null point of red-green P-cells is at green-yellow – not unique yellow Psycholinguistics • Shown a selection of colour chips, American children more often picked out prototype colours than non prototype ones (Heider, 1971). • Given a colour chip and asked to point out the matching chip in a Munsell array, children were more often able to point out the correct chip for prototype colours (Heider, 1971). Experiments with Dugum Dani • Speaker shown colour chip • 30 seconds later asked to pick it out from a Munsell array. The correct colour was picked out more often for prototype than non-prototype colours (Heider, 1972). Learning Colour Categories Dani speakers were taught colour categories made up of 5 adjacent chips. • Categories with central prototype easiest to learn. • Those with a peripheral prototype presented a medium level of difficulty. • Those with no prototype were hardest (Rosch (a.k.a. Heider), 1973). Recent Replications – Roberson et al (2000) Experiments with British English and Berinmo speakers. • Easier to remember colour if language has a word for it. • Berinmo speakers tended to pick prototype colours from the Munsell array, even when not shown a prototype. Gives an impression that prototype colours are better remembered. Are results a property of the Munsell array? The prototype colours seem to be perceptually farther from their neighbours than other colours. Therefore it’s easier to discriminate them from other colours. When this effect is compensated for, some speakers show no advantage for focal colours (Lucy, 1992). Learning Labels for Colours Learning labels for individual colours avoids the problems associated with Munsell arrays. • Berinmo speakers were taught to associate colour chips with pictures of nuts. • An advantage was only found for the red prototype. Is this because Berinmo has a prominent red colour category? Colour Term Acquisition • All children acquire colour naming late relative to other words of similar frequency. • Children have great difficult in learning their first colour word. Because colour is an abstract property? Because colours denote arbitrary parts of the colour space? Summary • Clear typological patterns. • But also some exceptional languages. • Neurophysiology suggests a special status for red, yellow, green and blue. • But neurophysiological results don’t correspond exactly to unique hues. • Psycholinguistic results provide some support for special status of unique hues. • But many early results are now disputed. References Berlin, B. & Kay, P. (1969). Basic Color Terms. Berkeley: University of California Press. De Valois R, Abramov I, Jacobs GH (1966) Analysis of response patterns of LGN cells. Journal of the Optical Society of America 56:966–977. Heider, E. R. (1971). “Focal” Color Areas and the Development of Color Names. Developmental Psychology, 4(3):447-445. Heider, E . R. (1972). Universals of Color Naming and Memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 93:10-20. Kay, P., Berlin, B., Maffi, L. & Merrifield, W. (1997). Color Naming Across Languages. In C. L. Hardin & L. Maffi (eds.) Color Categories in Thought and Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kay, P., Berlin B., and Merrifield, W. R. (1991). Biocultural implications of systems of color naming. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 1: 12-25. Kay, P. & Maffi, L. (1999). Color Appearance and the Emergence and Evolution of Basic Color Lexicons. American Anthropologist, 101: 743-760. Levinson, S. C. (2001). Yélî Dnye and the Theory of Basic Color Terms. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 10(1):3-55. Lucy, J. A. (1992). Language Diversity and Thought A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. MacLaury, R. E. (1997a). Color and Cognition in Mesoamerica: Construing Categories as Vantages. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. MacLaury, R. E. (1997b). Ethnographic evidence of unique hues and elemental colors. Commentary on Saunders and van Brakel (1997). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 20(2):202-203. Roberson, D., Davies, I. & Davidoff, J. (2000). Color Categories are Not Universal: Replications and New Evidence from a Stone-Age Culture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129(3): 369398. Rosch, E. H. (1973). Natural Categories. Cognitive Psychology, 4: 328350. Saunders, B. A. C. (1992). The Invention of Basic Color Terms. Utrecht: ISOR.