Categories of desaturated-complex color: Sensorial, perceptual, and cognitive models

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Over sixty percent of investigated languages name a color category by which speakers combine desaturation and complexity. The category engulfs the grey core of the Munsell color solid to emerge on the least saturated but blended areas of the solid’s surface, commonly brown, lavender, beige, and pale. But people vary in their construction of the category, emphasizing either its desaturation or its complexity. Many reinforce its composition with recognition of dark, light, or blue. A few who favor complexity include very complex colors that are also highly saturated, such as purple, while they still recognize desaturation and include grey as well. The category shows distinct patterns between languages, whence it undergoes various trajectories of development.Many such categories are of basic status, in spite of their variability. Yet individuals elect not to use them more often than they disregard their basic categories of hue or brightness; apprehending color in terms of its desaturation and complexity is an option that crosscuts the alternatives while not precluding them. Statistical differences in the frequency and constitution of the category appear between NewWorld and OldWorld languages. Interlocking models of sensation, perception, and cognition allow clearer understanding of this widely recurrent behavior. Their application here provides opportunity to assess the merits of each. Issues regarding the perceptual model underscore one case in which vision researchers and color ethnographers might pool resources to improve knowledge.


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