Professor Urmas Sutrop, University of Tartu
Professor Zhongwei Shen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The present dissertation researches basic color terms in seven historical and three contemporary lects (i.e., language varieties) of the Sinitic (i.e., Chinese) language family (commonly understood as Chinese languages in the West) with reference to the two main conceptions of the evolutionary theory of basic color terms: (1) The evolutionary trajectories of basic color terms (Berlin & Kay 1969: 2-3; Kay et al. 2009: 10-11, 30ff.); and (2) the composite color categories (Kay 1975; Kay et al. 1991: 15).
The present studies of this dissertation has two main parts: (1) A philological portion on two themes (1.1) the basic color terms for black, white and red in Chinese lects; and (1.2) the official colors of Chinese regimes; (2) An experimental portion on the basic color terms in Mandarin Chinese.
The philological methods follow Chinese philological traditions and are concretely described. The experimental methods follow the bases founded in Davies & Corbett (1994, 1995), and the amendments made in Sutrop (2001).
Materials used in the philological approach include the relevant Chinese standard dictionaries (e.g. 121-SW; 543-YP; 1008-GY; 1039-JY; 1375-HWZY; 1716-KXZD) and common texts. For historical topics relevant Chinese historiographies are used. Informants interviewed in the experimental approach are 60 Mandarin Chinese native speakers.
On the domain of philology and lexicology, major new contributions of the present studies are:
(1) Advance of the panchronic view: If there are multiple terms for the same sense in a language, the multiple terms ought to be of different linguistic origins.
(2) Concluding the primitive composite color categories in ancient Chinese. Of them, the primitive color of water bodies may be the first attestation of the composite color category black-blue-green-yellow since the evolutionary theory of basic color terms.
(3) Concluding that there are nine basic color terms in Mandarin Chinese. It has been the first experimental study on Mandarin Chinese using the same methods that have been applied to many other languages by linguists in the past twenty years.
(4) Concluding that the development of basic color terms in the mainstream of panchronic Chinese is consistent with the evolutionary theory of basic color terms.