Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Brown, Cecil H., 1944-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


English language--United States--Terms and phrases; Color--Terminology


The present research has been a study of the saliency of color names in American English. A salient color term will probably he at the beginning of elicited lists of color terms, will be given by most informants most of the time, and will exist in the knowledge of all informants. The group studied were the students at the Earlville Grade and High Schools (Earlville Community School District No. 9, Earlville, Illinois). The students ranged from kindergarten through twelfth grade and from five to eighteen years of age. A total of 579 students were interviewed. All were asked to "Tell me the names of all the colors you can think of." Six hundred fifty-two color names were elicited, and of these, thirteen occurred on most (or over fifty percent) of the lists. These colors are, in order of frequency, red, blue, black, green, yellow, white, brown, orange, purple, pink, gold, gray, and silver. The colors which occurred most frequently occurred nearer the beginning of the lists and those occurring less frequently were nearer the ends of the lists. For example, red, which occurred 576 times, occurred as the first color on 42.1% of the lists. As a result of the research, five criteria were determined for deciding the saliency of a color: 1) The term must be monolexemic. 2) The term must not belong to any category headed by another term, eg. scarlet is a type of red. 3) It must have the same range of applicability as other colors. That is, its use may not be restricted to a narrow class of objects, as sorrel is a shade of red peculiar to horses. 4) It must be psychologically salient for all informants, i.e., it must be a term known to all informants and its referent color will be called by this term by all or nearly all informants. 5) Color names which are also object names are acceptable if they fulfill the previous four criteria. By virtue of this rule, gold and silver are acceptable but ruby is not.


Includes bibliographical references.


46 pages




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