Relative basicness of color terms: Modeling and measurement

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Color terms have been of great interest for nearly 150 years. After more than a century of cross-linguistic studies with relativistic emphasis, Berlin and Kay’s theory switched the focus to basic color terms and a supposed universal ground. Yet, towards the end of the 20th century, research based strictly on universal basicness seemed to have come to a standstill. Relativist voices were raised, broader approaches were developed, and multidisciplinary efforts began to shed light on the nature of color naming. There was a new need to combine universal and relativist approaches. Research described here shows that a concept I call “relative basicness” is worthwhile. This concept makes it possible to trace historical layers and universal trends. If proven applicable to terms in domains apart from color, the model could be used to clarify general semantic structures and relations.


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