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The basic colour terms of Ndebele

By Ian Davies, Christine Davies and Greville G. Corbett


We report a field study of the colour terms of the Bantu language Ndebele. The main purposes of the study were to describe the Ndebele colour term inventory, and to determine which colour terms were basic in order to test Berlin & Kay's theory of colour universals. A sample of school children and a sample of adults from Matabeleland performed a list task ('tell me as many colour terms as you know') in order to identify Ndebele colour terms and to establish the relative salience of the terms. The adults also took part in a low resolution colour mapping task which provided a preliminary estimate of the range of referents of each term. Our results show that Ndebele has four definite basic terms: terms for white, black, red and green with blue (grue). In addition, the children had a basic term for yellow, and as this term was taught formally in school, it may eventually become basic for the majority of the population. Both sets of basic terms are consistent with Berlin & Kay's theory

Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 1994
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