The power of colour term precision

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In this paper I analyze and discuss the effects of the use of specific colour vocabulary employed by five English-speaking travelogue writers visiting northern Scandinavia in the nineteenth century. The number of different colour terms (types) and their frequency of occurrence (tokens) as well as the objects they describe are presented and analyzed. The results show that the objects described most often with specific colour vocabulary are natural objects in the landscape. I argue that this use of colour precision in the discourse can be viewed as reflecting two aspects: first, a desire to add attributes such as exoticness and exclusiveness to the narrative as they are readily available associations in many terms; second, the writers’ engagement and involvement in the landscape they travel through, as the use of specific terminology can be very clearly linked to the writers’ opinions about what is described.


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