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

Brent Kesler brent.of.all.people at gmail.com
Wed Sep 4 06:54:31 PDT 2019

On Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 2:15 PM Rhona Fenwick <qeslagh at hotmail.com> wrote:

> That 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 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.

The question is where languages draw borders between colors. The HolQeD
article I dimly remember argued that grouping yellow with green/blue is so
odd it's almost alien and speculated that MO knew about the Berlin-Kay
hierarchy, and had it mind when he made up the word *SuD* in 1984.

On Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 5:09 PM Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com> wrote:

> My memory of the thing Okrand did intentionally was that according to
> Berlin-Kay, yellow tends to either have it’s own word, or it is grouped
> with red and orange.

That's it! That's what I was trying to remember.

  On Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 5:09 PM Will Martin <willmartin2 at mac.com> wrote:

> The Klingon system groups it with blue and green, which makes sense if you
> look at a spectrum and see that it is arbitrary whether it is grouped with
> red/orange or green/blue, but languages generally tend to group it with
> red/orange.
> There is no technical reason why human languages group yellow with red and
> orange. They just do.

I think there is a technical reason based on human color perception, but I
don't know enough about that to defend the argument. But I will make one
argument:t he fact that so many of the world's languages seem to fit
Berlin-Kay suggests that where languages draw borders between colors is
*not* arbitrary. When a 90% majority of humans (or human languages)
independently make the same decision, it's probably not arbitrary.

On Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 2:15 PM Rhona Fenwick <qeslagh at hotmail.com> wrote:

> 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, but also has a term
> for grey, which breaks across several levels of the Berlin-Kay model.

I understand that in linguistics "universals" are statistical tendencies
and not absolutes. I also understand that there are ongoing debates about
color terminology and that Berlin-Kay is in no way the last word. That
said, while Ubykh breaks the Berlin-Kay model, it doesn't contradict the
HolQeD article's argument that grouping yellow with green/blue is weird and
that MO had Berlin-Kay in mind when he made that choice.

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