[Lingtyp] query: "blue"/"green" and dialectal variation in English

Heath Jeffrey schweinehaxen at hotmail.com
Sun Apr 7 22:12:54 UTC 2019

In 1972 I did a forced-choice experiment with a Choctaw speaker in Mississippi to elicit terms in the blue-green spectrum. To avoid any possibility of English interference, I presented colored cut-outs (I couldn't afford Munsell chips).

My informant looked at the cut-outs, and called out to his wife who was in the kitchen: "Mable, what do we call 'green'?"
From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de>
Sent: Sunday, April 7, 2019 5:29 PM
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Subject: [Lingtyp] query: "blue"/"green" and dialectal variation in English

Dear all,

I've recently become aware of dialectal variation within English with respect to the denotation of the colour terms "blue" and "green"; specifically, the extent to which they apply to intermediate colours such as cyan, turquoise and teal.  I'm currently running an informal survey on google forms (see link below); the results are still coming in, but I'm already observing interesting dialectal variation.  For example, in stimulus 8, showing a shade of teal, subjects are presented with a forced choice task: is it "blue" or "green"?  The percentage of subjects who chose "blue" range from 19% in Australian English (23 subjects) to 65% in USA English (97 subjects), with other countries occupying intermediate positions on the scale.

My question: has anybody described this kind of variation within English dialects before?  It's the world's most studied language, and a very popular domain of investigation, and yet a Google search didn't come up with any references to precisely this kind of variation.  Any comments related to this topic would be appreciated.




David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de<mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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