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Words and MeaningsLexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages, and Cultures$
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Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199668434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199668434.001.0001

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From “colour words” to visual semantics

From “colour words” to visual semantics

English, Russian, Warlpiri

(p.80) 4 From “colour words” to visual semantics
Words and Meanings

Cliff Goddard

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how we can move beyond the myth of “basic colour terms” and re-interpret the colour words of English and Russian in universal terms, i.e. in terms that are equally applicable to the many languages of the world which organise their descriptors of visual experience along very different lines. It shows how to deconstruct the European concept of ‘colour’, while at the same time recognising (even, insisting) that ‘colour’ functions as semantic molecule in the lexicon of European languages. It shows how colour terms rely on environmental prototypes, and stresses that even among European languages, such as English and Russian, there are substantial semantic differences in colour vocabulary. The chapter includes an extensive treatment of the visual semantics of the Warlpiri language of Central Australia, which highlights visual distinctiveness, shining-ness, and patterns, rather than colour in the European sense.

Keywords:   colour concept, basic colour terms, visual semantics, Warlpiri, Russian, Anglocentrism

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