Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Renato Oniga. La Terminologia del Colore in Latino tra Relativismo e Universalismo

Aevum Antiquum 7 (2007): 269-284.

Summary: Latin's system of basic color terms (acc. to the definition of Berlin and Kay) offers a strong confirmation of BK's thesis that color terms are language universals and that languages evolve them in a stepwise fashion. Classical Latin is a stage IV language with basic terms for black, white, red, green, and yellow. Furthermore, Latin has doublets for the first three of these which distingush their sheen or intensity. Thus albus is dull white, candidus bright white; ater dull black and niger shiny black; and ruber dull red, rutilus bright red. The attention this system gives to sheen lines up with Lyons' thesis that early Mediterranean languages were more attuned to shine than to hue. Acc. to Oniga, caeruleus is a color in transition during the classical period which still has ties to caelum (from which it is derived), but is beginning to be a BCT.

The difficulties of interpretation of the Noctes Atticae 2.26, while real, do not refute the idea that universal BCTs are evidenced in Latin.

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