Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Continuing Commentary
B. A. C. Saunders and J. van Brakel (1997). Are there nontrivial constraints on colour categorization? BBS 20:167–228

“Universals of colour” from a linguistic point of view

Anna Wierzbicka a1
a1 Department of Linguistics, Australian National University, Canberra, A.C..T. 0200 Australia


Saunders and van Brakel's observation that “linguistic evidence provides no grounds for the universality of basic color categories” also applies to the concept of “colour” itself. The language of “seeing” is rooted in human experience, and its basic frame of reference is provided by the universal rhythm of “light” days and “dark” nights and by the fundamental and visually salient features of human environment: the sky, the sun, vegetation, fire, the sea, the naked earth.