A new model for the conceptualization of color
This paper will propose an innovative model of the conceptualization of color, demonstrated by the syntaxico-semantic description of the chromatic adjectives and their special behavior in gradation, especially in combination with the adverb très [very]. Generally considered as a quality of an object, the color is not treated in language in the same way as other qualities are. Syntactic properties show that an ambivalent referent between texture and quality can be associated to the words of color. Comparing chromatic to typical adjectives of quality, many linguists have remarked that the combination [chromatic adjectives + très] is singular. The three most relevant studies (Milner, Whittaker, Noailly) hypothesize a change of category of the adjectives (from classifier to non-classifier) which is denied by Kleiber, who claims that the problem is not linguistic but referential: colors are not gradable referents. None of these explanations are satisfying. Drawing upon a description of the syntactic properties of this combination – reflecting the type of referent possessing the color (homogenous or not) and kind of color (natural or not) – our hypothesis proves that colors are gradable but not always in the same way as qualities, because color can also lead to a quantitative interpretation. This singularity depends on the bidimensionality of the referent, causing two possible interpretations.
Keywords: syntax, semantic, color terms, property terms, gradation
Published online: 14 February 2017
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