Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: colors (was Re: adjective help!)
Date: Sat, 03 Jan 2004 08:21:01 GMT
References: 1, 2
> The whole midori thing is a weird historical anomaly of grammar. For some reason, green is considered a noun in Japanese. More typical are red (akai) and blue (aoi). Those are both i-type adjectives or (and this probably is the wrong term) adjectival verbs.
It has been noted (see Color Appearance and the Emergence and Evolution of Basic Color Lexicons by Paul Kay and Luisa Maffi for an intro) that some colors are more "basic" than others. You can see this readily in Japanese. First, there are the basic non-colors white and black, both adjectives in Japanese. Then there is red and blue, again, both adjectives. However, there are no more (monomorphemic) color adjectives. But, (according to psycholinguistic research), green and yellow are also basic colors. Interestingly, in Japanese you can say ki-iro-i. This does include the morpheme iro, which means color. But, you cannot say *murasaki-iro-i or *midori-iro-i. Additionally, the number of languages that words like aoi which don't correspond nicely to (what most English-speakers would call) green and blue would seem to be significant. You can also look at word etymologies - kuro/shiro/ao/aka are not derived from, say, a plant that exhibits that color, whereas murasaki and daidai are. Same with English orange, purple, and crimson.
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