Focal Colors Are Universal After All

TitleFocal Colors Are Universal After All
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsRegier, T., Kay P., & Cook R. S.
Published inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Other Numbers1496

It is widely held that named color categories in the world's languages are organized around universal focal colors and that these focal colors tend to be chosen as the best examples of color terms across languages. However, this notion has been supported primarily by data from languages of industrialized societies. In contrast, recent research on a language from a nonindustrialized society has called this idea into question. We examine color-naming data from languages of 110 nonindustrialized societies and show that (i) best-example choices for color terms in these languages cluster near the prototypes for English white, black, red, green, yellow, and blue, and (ii) best-example choices cluster more tightly across languages than do the centers of category extensions, suggesting that universal best examples (foci) may be the source of universal tendencies in color naming.

Bibliographic Notes

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 102, No. 23, pp. 8386-8391. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0503281102.

Abbreviated Authors

T. Regier, P. Kay, and R. S. Cook

ICSI Research Group


ICSI Publication Type

Article in conference proceedings