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Title: The World Color Survey
Written By: Paul Kay
Brent Berlin
Luisa Maffi
William R Merrifield
Richard Cook

The World Color Survey reports the results of the World Color Survey
(WCS). The WCS was undertaken in the late 1970s to test the hypotheses of
Berlin and Kay's 1969 monograph, Basic Color Terms: (1) there are universal
constraints on basic color names in the world's languages, and (2)
languages tend to add, but not loose, basic color terms, and to do so in a
partially fixed order. In each language surveyed a linguist-translator
team (or individual) of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL
International) gathered data on the basic color terms, their mapping to a
palette 330 representative Munsell colors, and their 'best example' of
‘focal’ choices for each term. An average of twenty-four speakers in each
of 110 unwritten languages, representing half that many different families,
served as respondents for the Survey. The respondents were as monolingual
as could practicably be obtained under local field circumstances.

The World Color Survey largely substantiates Hypothesis (1) and, while
supporting Hypothesis (2) in broad outline, revises in important specifics
the Berlin and Kay model of how color-naming systems evolve. The current
model admits the possibility of a language with only two color terms -- as
previously documented -- but the Survey did not itself document any
two-term languages. In such a language, there is one term comprising white
and all the ‘warm’ colors (red, orange, yellow, pink,...) and another
comprising black and all the ‘cool’ colors (green, blue, purple, ...). A
three-term language separates a ‘warm’ term from the earlier white-warm
term, producing a system of white, warm and black-cool terms. Further
stages of development successively divide these categories until a six-term
language comprises separate terms for black, white, red, yellow, green and
blue. Terms such as brown, purple, orange, pink and gray, tend to be added
late in development, but not at precisely predictable points. Not all
languages fit this typology, but a substantial majority do.

The bulk of the book consists in 110 individual-language chapters, each
devoted to the analysis of the color terminology system of a single
language. Every individual-language chapter contains an analytic summary
of the color terminology system, including explanation of which terms are
considered to be basic and why and how the system fits into the
evolutionary typology – or fails to fit. The analytic summary is supported
by a standard series of tables and diagrams detailing the distribution of
naming and focal choice patterns among the respondents for the language.
(The raw data of the WCS is available on the web at The 110 individual language
chapters are preceded by chapters dealing with the history of the subject
and the methods of the Survey and include details of the data acquisition
methods and the development of the classification scheme used to order the
various color terminologies.

The book contains 618 pages in 8.5” x 11” format and over 1,000 charts,
diagrams and tables.

Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: CSLI Publications
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
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Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781575864150
Pages: 618
Prices: U.S. $ 90