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The ambiguity of <i>brightness</i> (with special reference to Old English) and a new model for colour description in semantics

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Abstract

The paper addresses problems of ambiguity in the use of the English words <i>bright </i>and<i>brightness </i>in certain publications on color semantics. The Old English language (records date from the late fifth century to c.1150 A.D.) is taken as a case study. After establishing which visual sensations could be described as ‘bright’, the usages of various authors writing on Old English color are investigated, and found to differ considerably. The evidence for the frequently encountered statement that Old English was concerned almost entirely with ‘brightness’, and not hue, is then investigated, and (hopefully) amore balanced conclusion is reached. Finally, a proposed metalanguage for color statements concerning historical languages (where native speakers cannot be consulted) is presented in an effort to avoid future ambiguity.

References

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