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Angela M. Brown, Abdirizak Isse, Delwin T. Lindsey; The color lexicon of the Somali language. Journal of Vision 2016;16(5):14. doi: 10.1167/16.5.14.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
This empirical study had three goals: (a) to describe Somali color naming and its motifs, (b) to relate color naming by Somali informants to their color vision, and (c) to search for historical and demographic clues about the diversity of Somali color naming. Somali-speaking informants from Columbus, Ohio provided monolexemic color terms for 83 or 145 World Color Survey (WCS) color samples. Proximity analysis reduced the 103 color terms to the eight chromatic color meanings from the WCS plus black, white, and gray. Informants' data sets were grouped by spectral clustering analysis into four WCS color naming motifs named after the terms for the cool colors: (a) Green-Blue, (b) Grue (a single term meaning “green or blue”), (c) Gray, and (d) Dark. The results show that, first, the Somali language has about four motifs among its speakers. Second, individuals' color vision test results and their motifs were not correlated, suggesting that multiple motifs do not arise from individual variation in color vision. Last, the Somali color lexicon has changed over the past century. New color terms often came from the names of familiar colored objects, and informants' motifs were closely related to their ages and genders, suggesting that the diversity of color naming across speakers of Somali probably results from ongoing language change.
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