Volume 38, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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In this paper the theory of the evolution of basic color terms introduced by Berlin & Kay is applied to Mandarin Chinese. The data was collected using the fieldwork methods, color list and color-naming tasks. The rainbow order of colors does not affect the list task results. The results, i.e. basic color terms, are calculated according to the procedure in Davies & Corbett. There are nine basic color terms in Mandarin. Ranked according to the cognitive salience criterion they are the following: hóng ‘red’, huáng ‘yellow’, lu ‘green’, lán ‘blue’, hēi ‘black’, bái ‘white’, zǐ ‘purple’, fěn ‘pink’, and huī ‘gray’. Of the fully developed set of BCTs only the terms for ‘brown’ and ‘orange’ are absent. There are no real gender differences for the BCTs. Mandarin is a Stage VII basic color vocabulary language. The absence of the Stage VI term for ‘brown’ is explained using the wild-card theory. As a result Mandarin is not a counter-example to the theory of basic color terms. We suggest that the term chéng ‘orange’ is the next candidate for basic status in Mandarin. There are two competing terms for basic ‘brown’ zōng and hè. If one competing term for ‘brown’ (with high probability the term zōng) becomes basic, Mandarin Chinese will have a full set (eleven) of basic color terms.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): basic color term; fieldwork; lexicology; Mandarin Chinese; salience; wild-card
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