July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Are Somali color categories fuzzy?
Author Affiliations
  • Delwin Lindsey
    Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, Mansfield
  • Angela Brown
    College of Optometry, Ohio State University, Columbus
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 1166. doi:10.1167/13.9.1166
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      Delwin Lindsey, Angela Brown; Are Somali color categories fuzzy?. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):1166. doi: 10.1167/13.9.1166.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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To speakers of English, color categories are not disjoint, but rather overlap to some extent in color space. For example, some colors are blue, some are green, and some are both blue and green. The basis for these "fuzzy" categories is thought to be the color-opponent red/green and blue/yellow dimensions of color space. In this example, blue and green colors each produce a signal in the corresponding hue dimension, while blue-green colors simultaneously excite both hue dimensions. However, not everyone in the world speaks English, and there are many fewer named color categories in the Somali language than there are in English. For example, blues and greens fall into the same lexical category for many Somali informants, which some call "grue", but others call "gray", or "black". We therefore wondered what the Somali fuzzy categories are like.

Methods: Twenty monolingual speakers of the standard dialect of the Somali language (ages 25–78, median=48 years) were allowed to use either one or two monolexemic color terms (CTs) to name each of 145 Munsell samples (20 hues at 7 lightnesses plus 5 achromatics).

Results: Informants varied widely in how frequently they used two CTs (range: 4.8%--90.4% of samples, median=50.3%). When two CTs were used, they were generally one chromatic CT (which applied to a limited range of hues and lightnesses) plus one achromatic CT, apparently used as a modifier. Few samples (median=7.6%) were named with two chromatic CTs. These samples were named differently by different informants, and did not reliably fall near the boundaries predicted by the Hering primaries.

Conclusion: Somali color naming does not readily reveal Somali fuzzy categories. Rather, in most of our Somali informants, it appears to be driven primarily by the salience of only one hue dimension at a time.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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