Creative Approach during the Process of Color Nomination and Limit of Meanings of Color Terms

The theory of nomination, first of all, is connected with the determination of correlation between the conceptual forms of thinking.  It deals with the creation, establishment and distribution of the names of some fragments from the objective reality. The subject of the given theory is the study of the results of interaction of human thinking, language and reality in the processes of nomination. According to Kubryakova’s point of view: „В центре внимания номинации, оказывается не только анализ результатов номинации, но и анализ самого процесса номинации” [Кубрякова, 1986: 41]. During the process of the joint action of an addresser and an addressee a certain feature of an object or an event is selected. It becomes a fundament of naming. A. A. Potebnya considers the principal feature of an object as a “presentation” or an “inner form”[1], while its external name is determined by lexical and grammatical selective means of the language. According to the scientist’s point of view, one of the features, which dominates is the inner form. “Форму языка составляет нечто постоянное и единообразное в деятельности духа, выражения мысли” [Бодуэновские... 2001: 53]. The artistic approach enables linguists to study the process of transmission and organization of the information between the subjects. Hence, different contexts of the meaning of the expression and the factors of a speaker and an addressee must be taken into consideration.  In the sphere of the creation of lexical units with the ability of the performance of nominal functions, the specificity of each concrete language does not proceed only from the peculiarities of its grammatical structure. The potential of the conceptual thinking (how universal it could be) contains specific nuances and is subjective for each individual considering psychological and socio-cultural factors.

       From the more global point of view, language is a universal-conceptual system. Berlin and Kay think, that the category of colors is not an individual peculiarity of the language. It is a common conceptual system of the human race. However, it should be specified that the category of colors is not only an individual peculiarity from the conceptual point of view, but it is characterized with the universal features traditional and typical for the mankind. It is interesting, how the specificity of the color terminology is revealed in this conceptual system and which features of the words denoting colors are presented in the language.

           The subject of our research is an object of the visible reality, which is mainly perceived by vision (sometimes by hearing). „Видимое же – это прежде всего цвет” (Aristotle, 1976: 408). The units denoting the color are discussed in the context of the functional linguistics and are analyzed in the context of the creative approach of nomination considering such factors as perception and associations.  The process of nomination is considered as a creative process in which a concrete concept obtains a form (in our case - a verbal form) and develops its meaning in the cultural-anthropological context similar to Aristotle’s description of typical events. The color which exists in the visible reality can be characterized as “substance”, while the word which denotes the color can be assumed as “a form and content”.

       The ability of perceiving colors and dividing them into categories is one of the important conditions of their vision. Division of colors into categories within the process of perception facilitates their nomination. The number of words denoting colors is limited in contrast to the colors we perceive. However, the categories of colors are perceived in accordance with the existed names [Khomeriki… 2009:136].

        The works dedicated to colors in the spheres of art, cognitive psychology, physiology and anthropology are very helpful for the cognitive linguistics in the process of the study of color names. The analysis of the nomination enables us to present deeper studies of the specificity of naming the colors. Taking into consideration the open character of the decoding system, the sequence of decoding and the analysis of the process of development of the content of units designating color in this system become very significant and useful and extend a traditional linguistic stock.

       Universal models of categorization of various nuances perceived by different language groups may vary according to the diversity of cultures. Different persons perceive colors in different ways. Therefore, their categorization is diverse. The language differences entail the difference of perception and vice versa, perception conditions the result of the process of nomination[2]. Possibly, a prevailing position of the color plays its role. The margin of perception of central colors is more different. In the Georgian language the central colors belong to the primary category and they are denoted by the main terms. The system of those terms absolutely corresponds to the universal model of colors of Berlin and Kay [Khomeriki… 2009:136].

       The central colors create a universal cognitive basis for the language and the memory of colors. It’s known, that in the ancient times only three colors dominated in the art (white, black and red) [Миронов, 1984 : 20-21]. Later the palette was enriched with light blue (azure, blue) and yellow (corn-colored/color of the sun). These five colors can be regarded as the main colors of Leonardo da Vinci’s palette. Hence, by means of certain combinations the creation of several colors was facilitated (blue + red + white = violet; red + yellow = orange, honey-dew, flame color). Two colors are achromatic – black and white. They can be considered as synonyms and as opposites not only in the philosophical, but in the linguistic context as well.

Black – mourning

White – mourning (in India)

Black – the evil

White - the good

Black – solidarity

White – chastity

White – hardship

White – beginning

Black - beginning

     The memorization of the main colors is more spontaneous. The colors which are connected to the natural phenomena (for example: red – fire; blue – water, the sky; black – earth; white (yellow/gold) – the sun) are easier to memorize. Moreover, the central colors are recollected faster (red, yellow, green, blue, white and black) than others.

        Which meaning acquires a word denoting a color in the language (prose, poetry) through the associations of human beings? How the extralinguistic and intralinguistic factors influence the development of this type of vocabulary? How the individual transits into the global and how the peculiarities of different cultures and social mediums are exposed in it? How the creative process of nomination is expressed as a natural creative event of the society, which results in the development of the language?

    By means of a practical testing, a descriptive method and an intradisciplinary analysis we studied not only the meanings of the words denoting colors, but the process of their creation as well. The research proved that the symbols of colors or conventionally accepted meanings are specific for a certain culture from the stylistic point of view. Great attention must be paid to poetic and metaphoric meanings of these words in the cultural-synchronous context, that definitely proves that the language is a conceptual system. It is a model, which is created from the following components: a psychological factor, a sociological factor, a regional (demographic factor) or intralinguistic and extralinguistic factors.

         The test was carried out in December 2009. We questioned 80 Georgian students. The test was composed of the names of ten colors: red, yellow, green, orange, blue, violet, black, brown, grey, white. It contained correct answers from the aspect of painting. It was modified and adapted, because we were interested not only in the fixation of well-known symbolic meanings, but in the more complex study of the units denoting colors as well.

     The test was composed of four variants. The students had to answer the question about the associations of the names of colors. They had to write their own variants or individual-subjective associations evoked by the names of colors. The students were not limited in number of chosen answers to each question. They were asked to indicate the primary association connected with a word. In general, the test was similar to the one about symbolism of colors. It had ready answers, which were accepted in the fine arts. However, the focus was not made on this aspect during the test. The main objective was the revealing of transition of the association to the meaning of adjective denoting a color as a result of concrete individual’s perception.

       The results of testing were rather individual. However, the general picture and the main tendencies were revealed.

       Let’s review the respondents’ associations and the meanings of colors used by them:

        Black - death- 50%, evil -39%, rage – 13%, jealousy – 4%, solidarity – 2%, life – 1%. In some cases all the given answers were marked (associations: black is the main color; it is the  color of life; a blind person sees only black – answered less than 1% of the respondents).

         White - chastity – 69%, peace – 22%, love – 10%, poverty – 1%. In some cases all the given answers were marked (associations:  tension, fear – answered less than 1% of the respondents).

          Red: passion – 86%, danger – 78%, serenity – 4%, nature – 1% (associations:  risk, love, aggression, energy, severity, freedom, anxiety, noisy, strong, conquers – answered less than 1% of the respondents).

        Blue: serenity – 74%, hope -84%, energy -24%, richness – 4% (associations: the sky, positive - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

       Yellow: happiness - 55%, life – 66%, humiliation – 28%, evil -16% (associations: warmth, light, death, creativity, novelty, the sun, positive energy - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

       Green: health – 74%, wisdom – 41%, boredom – 15%, envy– 15% (associations: nature, peace, friendship, joy - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

       Orange: creative work – 64%, health – 18%, peace – 13%, fear – 10%, (associations: joy, motion, speed - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

        Violet: luxury – 48%, serenity – 34%, anger – 10%, danger – 1% (dignity, mysticism, coldness, study, humiliation - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

        Brown: pride – 38%, luxury – 30%, practicality, humiliation – 28%, energy – 23% (associations: simplicity, boredom, inaction, love, coffee, boring, life, inanity - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

      Grey: boredom – 48%, old age – 44%, fear – 10%, death – 9% (associations: winter, simplicity, emptiness, youthfulness, sportive, fashionable - answered less than 1% of the respondents).

       “Aristotle stated that colors are created by mixing black and white and between these two extremes are five definite colors (purple, yellow, red, green and blue). This fact excludes the presence of indefinite ones. Therefore, the total number of colors is seven, while other nuances are created by their compositions. For a human being white and black are two extremes, two “opposite” points”[Darchia, 2005:12]. Plato understood the optic nature of a color and the facilitation of its existence by the relationship with material objects. Acknowledgment of qualitative nature of a color has effected the terms denoting it. Considering the margins of colors the theorists tried to define them. Hence, sometimes the meanings of terms exceeded the margins [Darchia, 2005:13].

      The system of words denoting colors is rather instable. Decoding this system and the comparative analysis of these units and pragmatics of their meanings are interesting for the common traditional methods of the historic linguistics (cognitive anthropology, classification of colors, variability of the language, universality of the language).

      Berlin and Kay established, that the universal system of vocabulary denoting colors includes 11 main categories (white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, grey). These categories were regulated according to the strict mathematical series [Leech, 1977:235].

       The teaching of Berlin and Kay enables us to suppose, that the tendency of growth of the number of basic terms along with the development of the society implies the following: in contrast to the contemporary stage, in the historical past the names denoting colors were less in number. The semantic field of colors has extended by means of the development of fine art and other activities where the factor of a color played a certain role, by the revision of the meanings of colors in poetry and metaphoric contexts and by the usage of new meanings. “In the natural environment most objects have fixed colors and, consequently, it is usually superfluous to identify them by color, e.g., ‘green leaves’, ‘white clouds’, ‘black coals’, ‘red blood’’, etc. Color manipulation activities present the possibility of radically changing the colors of both natural and men-made objects so that their identification by use of words is no longer redundant, but, in some instances, almost necessary” [Witkowski, Brown, 1981: 15]. The example of color names, their meanings and lexical succession reveals the process of changing a language and its historical restoration and the development of people’s conceptual stock in synchrony and diachrony. Moreover, the systems of decoding of the development of color names are revealed by means of the development of a society and a language. The interesting role in this process is played by sensation and perception. Practically, the sensation which connects us with the word “white” creates this word. Moreover, the perception develops the meaning of this lexical.

          The results of the testing revealed socio-linguistic and psychological processes. For example, in the Georgian-speaking society the word “blue” symbolically means “serenity”. It is also associated with the energy. According to the explanations of the respondents the sky is associated with a prayer, the lord, help and hope. At the same time, it is interesting to discuss the contrast of perception of one and the same color in the frames of one or two different communities. For example, in many cultures white is associated with chastity and purity, while in India it is the color of mourning. According to the results of testing, all the meanings (variants) of achromatic colors (“white” and “black”) were marked by the participants. Black was associated with the end or beginning of the life. In one case it meant mourning, in the other – elegant dressing. White was associated with chastity and serenity or with poverty and tension. Consequently, the meanings were grouped in opposite associations - positive and negative: the perception created a metaphoric meaning and a mood. Therefore, in contrast to the primary meaning, all meanings of this type can be named as a psychological meaning. Such meanings and specificity of the nomination of color names reveal the change of a language and the development of the society. The psychological tests concerning perception prove, that cultural, geographical and social factors influence people’s perception of colors and their nomination. When participants are asked about blue, primrose and yellow, they prove the existence of two or three colors depending on the data of the given language (if the given color names exist in the language).

       “Participants are shown three colors and asked to ‘pick the odd one out’, on the basis of similarity. Although English speakers tend to pick the color that is from a different English category (e.g.: lemon yellow, yellow, blue), ‘Africans tend to show no such bias’ (e.g.:  yellow, blue) because two colors are in the same African Category.”  [Özgen, 2004:96]   

        Therefore, the complex study of color terms reveals, that the “content” develops within the frames of a “form” of the word depending on the concrete associations and the development of the society and mankind.  The primary (or its standard meaning given in the dictionary) and artistic-metaphoric meanings of a word are revealed as a psychological-social phenomenon acquired by the word in speech and especially, in poetry.

      The sensation memorized as a result of the visual perception evokes association and creates  a meaning and a polysemy in the words “representing” colors. Visual perception and social external factors influence the process of linguistic categorization of categorical terms. It’s worth mentioning, that a word denoting color obtains an emotional nuance and a new metaphorical poetic meaning in poetry (generally, in speech).

     The study of the vocabulary of colors enables us to present deep analysis of the process of nomination, which represents a creative process, the ways of the development of the vocabulary and psychological and social contexts of a word and a form. 

[1] „Одним из признаков, преобладающим над всеми остальными, внутренняя форма“, -  writes A. Potebnya [Потебня, 1999:116].

[2]  Nomination means wrapping an idea in a “form”.



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