[tlhIngan Hol] On Klingon colours: Is the Klingon vision bichromatic?

Rhona Fenwick qeslagh at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 3 11:27:10 PDT 2019

Urgh, apologies - I accidentally the send button. Let me try once more.

The Klingon system really doesn't break the Berlin-Kay pattern, though. If a language only has terms for "white", "black", "red" and "yellow", that doesn't mean that they can't name any colours that don't fall into what an English speaker would consider those colours to be. It just means that further modifiers are necessary, and often also that the definitions are broader - like in those languages that lack a distinction between "blue" and "green". When such a distinction is absent, that doesn't mean one of those colours doesn't have a name: it means that both "blue" and "green" fall under the same term. What's more, subsequent work has shown that the Berlin-Kay hierarchy isn't universal; it only describes a tendency. Ubykh, for instance, has basic terms for white, black, red, yellow, and blue/green in what is otherwise a fairly straightforward Level IV system, but it also has a term for grey, which breaks across several levels to Level VII of the Berlin-Kay model. Dan Everett's work on Pirahã suggests that language may lack truly basic colour terms entirely.

What this means is that for Klingon, we're seeing basically a simple Level III system in the Berlin-Kay model. For Klingons, the nucleus of SuD appears to lie in the green, as shown by KGT p.82, which notes that this is the colour described by the intensified form SuDqu' or "very SuD". If SuD were to be subsequently narrowed to only green, so that a separate term for yellow could be introduced, we'd see a simple level IV system.

QeS 'utlh
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