Colour term research of Hugo Magnus

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In the second part of the 19th century, there was an international scientific controversy on the development, recognition and denomination of color terms, in which participated famous scholars like William E. Gladstone, Lazarus Geiger, Grant Allen, Ernst Krause or Charles Darwin. Among the proponents of the theory that human color perception had developed gradually during the evolution of the human species was the German ophthalmologist Hugo Magnus, who formulated crucial suggestions concerning the relationship between the human capacity of perceiving different colors and the existing color terms in the languages of the world. Revising his original point of view in further publications in consequence of the results of his ethnological inquiry, Magnus brought to light much information still relevant for current debates. Comparing some of his results like e.g. the evolutionary color term sequence to a modern scientific concept such as Berlin and Kay’s, there appear to be astonishing similarities, suggesting that the contributions of Hugo Magnus to the color-term discussion have unjustly fallen into oblivion.


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