Sunday, March 31, 2013

Color language

Yesterday we received in the mail this year's first issue of the Atti della Fondazione Giorgio Ronchi (volume LXVIII). On pages 97–106 we found a paper by Lucia Ronchi with the intriguing title Familiarizing with color language I — Evolution and written language. This paper was instigated by the author's reading of Carole Biggam's recent book Semantics of Colour Vision.

Prof. Ronchi compares the frequency and category of color terms in a number of books in Italian, from the an early Psalterium through Dante to contemporary books. The work was accomplished by actually reading the texts and analyzing the color terms in reference to the surrounding text; a more detailed study is promised to appear in a second paper.

This detailed analysis of a few texts is rare in these days, where we tend to study large corpora using big data analytics, as we did for example in the post on which color synonym should I use?

Not having read Biggam's book, the article is in part a little obscure. For example, in the abstract we are given the expectation to read about the relation of studying color terms (linguistics) vs. color categories (cognition), but this is used only intrinsically. Also, we are promised a comparison between color terms and categories in the written and oral languages, but the article covers only the former.