Basic colour terms around the Baltic Sea

Areal, universal, or relativistic


The article tackles the question whether five languages spoken around the Baltic Sea – Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Russian – have any common features typical to the language area or do they rather fit into the pattern of universal colour naming and categorisation. All these languages belong to stage VII languages having eight to twelve lexicalised basic colour terms, while Russian has two basic colour terms for blue, sinij and goluboj. Lithuanian also seems to have a categorical split between dark blue and light blue. Finnish lacks a basic colour term for purple and Lithuanian has no basic colour term for pink, but the pink-purple area of all five languages is nevertheless covered by diverse lexical labels. However, it is intriguing that despite genealogical or contact-induced relationships the focal points of colours do not coincide, but fall into different places in the colour space, which may be accounted for by language affecting our categorical perception. The latter finding contributes to the weak relativity hypothesis.