LINGUIST List 10.686

Thu May 6 1999

Sum: Color Survey

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>


  1. matubara, Color Survey

Message 1: Color Survey

Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 01:35:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: matubara <>
Subject: Color Survey

Dear linguists;

After a huge delay, I would like to post the summary of my color
survey conducted as part of my graduation thesis last fall with the
help of 51 volunteers from Linguistlist. (15 languages: English 15
people, Polish 7,German 6, Russian 4, French 2, Italian 2, Greek 2,
Hungarian 2, Chinese 2, Persian, Sebian, Turkish, Dutch, Czech,
Spanish, Fijian, Hebrew, Berber and Moroccan Arabic, 1 person
respectively). I apologize for the delay of this summary, as I express
sincere thanks for the people who offered their time and thoughts for
me. I am sorry for a few people to whom I was not able to respond for
various reasons.

Q1: How many colors do the rainbow have to you? What colors are they?
Results: 23 people mentioned 7 colors, 13 people 6 colors, and one
person said 8 (which was the largest number). The smallest nunmer was
3 colors ( one person). 12 people out of the 23 who voted for 7 colors
listed the following ones: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo,
and violet. Interestingly, those who voted for 6 colors dropped indigo
from the above list, all of them.

Q2: To those who answered Q1, what is the basis for saying so?
a. I was taught in school/at home.(Chosen by 28 people)
b. I learned in a book or some form of publication in my home
country.(Chosen by 9 people)
c. It is handed down by word of mouth. (Chosen by 10 people)
d. I actually conted in a rainbow. (Chosen by 7 people)
e. others (12 people: consent of the wife, from a folk tale, from
imaganation, etc)
Comments: This shows how influential school education is in seeing the objective reality of the rainbow.

Q3: Is there any convenient way in your language to memorize the
colors of the rainboW? For instance, in British English there are such
set phrases as "Richard of York gained battles in vain" (the first
letter of each word standing for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue,
Indigo, and Violet) for girls and Vibgyor(acronym) for boys.
Results: 13 people responded in the affirmative, 9 people in Englsih, 2 in Russian, 1 in Polish, and 1 in German. 6 English-speaking people( 4 of them Americans) had another phrase "ROY G BIV." 

Q4: What are the basic colors to you?
Results: Because of the vagueness of the term "basic color", many
people duly expressed the inadequacy of the question. I admit this was
an inappropriate question and therefore do not discuss the results

Thank you,
Mariko Matubara
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