LSCHL 01: A Study of Chinese Colour Terminology

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A Study of Chinese Colour Terminology

Weiyuan Xu
Australian National University

This study represents a comprehensive investigation of Chinese colour terminology through both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. We find that: In Modern Standard Chinese, basic colour categories are designated by eight basic colour terms which anchor the nomenclature system. Tertiary terms are often morphologically derived from, and semantically defined by, the basic terms. Secondary terms provide interesting evidence of language change. There is no single internal semantic structure constant across basic and non-basic terms. The potentiality of syntactic function and collocation versatility of colour terms are generally determined by their morphological structures and semantic attributes. The gradual increase of varieties of functions; of overt grammatical constraints; and of the probability of syntactic extension is the trend in the development of syntactic function of colour terms.

Some figurative usages of colour terms stemmed from universal psychological associations, others were based upon Chinese-specific etymological or cultural factors. Western languages and cultures have significantly influenced MSC colour terminology. New colour terms used to be created overwhelmingly through semantic derivation. In more recent times they have been created mainly through morphological combination and affixation. The development of Chinese colour terminology conforms by and large to Berlin and Kay's universal evolutionary ordering.

ISBN 9783895863783. LINCOM Studies in Chinese Linguistics 01. 227pp. 2006.

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