Identifying the Evolutionary Progression of Color from Crosslinguistic Data

AbstractWe present a novel statistical analysis of color categorization using a standard method from semantic typology. Our approach shows that crosslinguistic color naming data exhibits latent dimensions whose order of relative importance matches the evolutionary ordering of emergence of those distinctions. Moreover, we show that the importance ordering of these dimensions holds even when controlling for frequency of the distinctions by looking at languages within each stage of evolution. Additionally, we find that the extreme points of the latent color dimensions correspond well to a small set of "universal" focal colors. Thus we show that a simple mathematical method simultaneously derives a consistent match both to the evolutionary stages and to the universal foci.

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