Basic colour terms in five Finno-Ugric languages and Estonian Sign Language: a comparative study

  • Mari Uusküla
  • Liivi Hollman
  • Urmas Sutrop


In this paper we compare five Finno-Ugric languages – Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Udmurt and Komi-Zyrian – and the Estonian Sign Language (unclassified) in different aspects: established basic colour terms, the proportion of basic colour terms and different colour terms in the collected word-corpora, the cognitive salience index values in the list task and the number of dominant colour tiles in the colour naming task. The data was collected, using the field method of Davies and Corbett, from all languages under consideration, providing a distinctive foundation for linguistic comparison. We argue that Finno-Ugric languages seem to possess relatively large colour vocabularies, especially due to their rich variety of word-formation types, e.g. the composition of compound words. All of the languages under consideration have developed to Stage VI or VII, possessing 7 to 11 lexicalised basic colour terms. The cognitive salience index helps to distinguish primary and secondary basic colour terms, showing certain comprehensive patterns which are similar to Russian and English.


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