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Hanunoo Color Categories Author(s): Harold C. Conklin Source: Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 11, No.

4 (Winter, 1955), pp. 339-344 Published by: University of New Mexico Stable URL: Accessed: 05/01/2009 02:16
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IN THE FOLLOWING brief analysisof a specificPhilippinecolor system I shall attempt to show how variousethnographicfield techniquesmay be combined profitablyin the study of lexical sets relating to perceptualcategorization. Recently,I completedmore than a year'sfield researchon Hanunoo folkbotany.2In this type of work one soon becomesacutelyawareof problemsconnected with understandingthe local system of color categorizationbecause plant dein of differences the appearance flowers terminations often dependon chromatic so or vegetative structures both in taxonomicbotany and in popular systems of It classification. is no accidentthat one of the most detailedaccountsof nativecolor area was written by a botanist.3I was, in the Malayo-Polynesian terminology concernedwith Hanun6o color categories during the entire therefore, greatly the research.Before summarizing specific results of periodof my ethnobotanical I should like to draw attentionto my analysisof the Hanunoo material,however, severalgeneralconsiderations. 1. Color, in a westerntechnicalsense, is not a universalconcept and in many equivalent.In our languagessuch as Hanun6o there is no unitaryterminological literaturedefinitionsstate that color is the evaluationof the visual sense technical of that quality of light (reflectedor transmittedby some substance) which is basically determinedby its spectral composition.The spectrumis the range of in visiblecolorin light measured wavelengths (400 [deep red] to 700 [blue-violet] .4 millimicrons) The total color sphere- holding any set of externaland surface in conditionsconstant- includestwo otherdimensions, additionto that of spectral or hue. One is saturationor intensity (chroma), the other brightnessor position brilliance (value). These three perceptualdimensionsare usually combinedinto continuumknownas the color solid. Saturation a coordinate systemas a cylindrical coreof neutralgrays towardthe centralaxiswhichformsthe achromatic diminishes to from the white at the end of greatestbrightness black at the oppositeextremity. Hue varieswith circumferential position.Although technicallyspeaking black is
1 Field work among the Hanun6o on Mindoro Island (1952-1954) was supported by grants from the Social Science ResearchCouncil, the Ford Foundation,and the Guggenheim Foundation. 2 Conklin, 1954a, 1954b. 3 Bartlett, 1929. 4 Osgood, 1953, p. 137. 339 VoL. 11, 1955




of the absence any "color," of white,the presence all visiblecolorwavelengths, lackspectral theseachromatic withinthe andneutral distinction, grays positions in the categories with spectrally-defined colorsolidare often included positions in colorsystems. distinguished popular is the 2. Underlaboratory colordiscriminationprobably samefor conditions, all human in different but of populations, irrespective language; themanner which can the millions5 "colors" of whicheverynormalindividual languages classify discriminate stimuli classified equivalent, extensive, as as are cognitive Many differ. - or perceptual screening takes place.6Requirements specification of may differconsiderably one culturally-defined from to The largest situation another. collection7 Englishcolornamesrunsto over3,000entries, only eightof of yet these occur commonly.8 Recent demonstrates and very testing Lenneberg others9 by in a highcorrelation English in Zufiibetween and and colorvocabulary ease ready in recognition colors. this is onlya beginning doesshowhowthe it of Although structure a lexicalset mayaffectcolorperception. mayalso be possible of It to determine certain correlates colorterminology. for Colortermsare nonlinguistic a partof thevocabulary particular of and analysis languages onlytheintracultural of suchlexical andtheircorrelates provide key to theirunderstanding sets can the andrange applicability. studyof isolated assumed of The in and translations other can languages leadonlyto confusion.10 In the fieldI beganto investigate Hanunoo colorclassification a number in of the elicitingof linguistic froma largenumber inof ways,including responses formants paintedcards,dyed fabrics,otherpreviously to materials,11 prepared and the recording visual-quality of attributes takenfromdescriptions specific of itemsof thenatural artificial and in This resulted the collection of surroundings. a profusion attributive of wordsof the nonformal and therefore a sense in and "color"--type.Therewereat firstmanyinconsistencies a high degreeof forwhich controls didnotseemto account. the used as However, thework overlap withplantspecimens minute and floristic differentiation I progressed, notedthat in contrastive situations initialconfusion incongruity informants' this and of redid occur.In suchsituations, where "nonformal not the sponses not usually (i.e.
5 Estimates range from 7,500,000 to more than 10,000,000 (Optical Society of America, 1953; Evans, 1948, p. 230). 6 Lounsbury,1953. 7 Maerz and Paul, 1930. 8 Thorndike and Lorge, 1944. 9 Lenneberg,1953, pp. 468-471; Lennebergand Roberts, 1954; Brown and Lenneberg,1954, 10 Lenneberg, 1953, pp. 464-466; Hjelmslev, 1953, p. 33. 11 Cf. Ray, 1952, 1953.




of spatiallyorganized) visible quality"12 one substance (plant part, dyed thread, or color card) was to be relatedto and contrastedwith that of another,both of which were either at hand or well known, terminological agreementwas reached with relativeease. Such a definedsituationseemedto providethe frame necessary Where needed,a greaterdegreeof for establishinga knownlevel of specification. differentroot morphemes)could be and was made. specification(often employing Otherwise,such finer distinctionswere ignored.This hint of terminologically sigof nificantlevels led to a reexamination all color data and the following analysis emerged. Color distinctionsin Hanunoo are made at two levels of contrast.The first, higher,more generallevel consistsof an all-inclusive,co6rdinate,four-wayclassificationwhichlies at the coreof the colorsystem.The four categoriesare mutually exclusivein contrastivecontexts,but may overlapslightly in absolute (i.e., spectrally,or in othermeasurable)terms.The secondlevel, includingseveralsublevels, consistsof hundredsof specificcolor categories,many of which overlapand interon there is "unanimous agreement"13 the designations digitate. Terminologically, lack of unanimity with a few for the four Level I categories,but considerable - in the use of termsat Level II. exceptions explainable The four Level I termsare: 1. (ma)birul4 "relativedarkness (of shadeof color); blackness"(black) 2. (ma)lagti? "relativelightness (or tint of color); whiteness"(white) 3. (ma)rara? "relativepresenceof red; redness"(red) 4. (ma)latuy "relativepresenceof light greenness;greenness"(green).

into The three-dimensional color solid is dividedby this Level I categorization four unequalparts; the largestis mabiru,the smallestmalatuy.While boundaries separatingthesecategoriescannotbe set in absoluteterms,the focal points (differing slightly in size, themselves) within the four sections,can be limited more or less to black, white, orange-red,and leaf-green respectively.In general terms, of "color" abstract interrosimilar semantic to ourword in makes 12 Thelack a term range in about matters somewhat questions complicated. forleading Except (namgation Hanunoo such such as tida attribute a possibility), circumlocutions as kabitay nu only visual-quality ing some in of "How at?" If organizapagbantdyun? is it to look arepossible. thisresults descriptionspatial
"not its shape tion or form,the inquiry bukunkay 9anyu? may be narrowed the specification by


occur attributes the prefix "exhibiting, as with as 14 Theseforms mahaving," indicated oras words in above parentheses, free (abstracts).

13 Lenneberg,1953, p. 469.




mabiru includes range the in covered English black, violet,indigo, blue, usually by darkgreen,darkgray,and deepshades othercolorsand mixtures; of malagt?, whiteand verylight tints of othercolorsand mixtures; marara%, maroon, red, in are and mixtures whichthesequalities seen to predominate; orange,yellow, All of malatuy, light green,and mixtures green,yellow,and light brown. color terms be reduced oneof thesefourbutnoneof the fouris reducible. This can to doesnot meanthatothercolorterms synonyms, thattheydesignate but color are of withinfourrecognized realms. color categories greater specification of The basis thisLevelI classification to havecertain correlates beyond appears whatis usually therange chromatic and are of considered differentiation, which aswith sociated nonlinguistic in environment. thereis First, phenomena the external the opposition between in of ranges meanlightanddark,obvious the contrasted or thereis an opposition between ing of lagt? andbiru.Second, dryness desiccation and wetness freshness or in of (succulence) visiblecomponents the natural environment This whichare reflected the termsrara? in and latuyrespectively. distinction of particular is in significance termsof plantlife. Almostall living somefresh,succulent, often"greenish" and planttypespossess parts.To eat any kindof raw,uncooked freshfruitsor vegetables, knownas is food,particularly
sectionof newly-cutbamboo pag-laty-un(< latuy). A shiny, wet, brown-colored is malatuy (not marara7). Dried-out or maturedplant materialsuch as certain

kindsof yellowed or cornare bamboo hardened kernelsof matureor parched To marara2. become is as to loseallmoisture, known mamara? para9 desiccated, (< and I mightaddthat therearemorphological and "desiccation"; parenthetically, - asidefromHanun6o etymologizing to believe at historical that reasons folk leastthe finalsyllables thesetwo formsarederived froma common of root). A thirdopposition, the is dividing two already suggested, that of deep,unfading, and as material againstpale, weak,faded, indelible, henceoften moredesired or mabiru mararca a and substance, distinction bleached, "colorless" contrasting with malagti and malatuy. itemsand This opposition holds for manufactured tradegoodsas wellas for somenatural redandwhitetradebeads, products (e.g., redbeingmorevaluable Hanunoo the cottonsarongs, standards; by indigo-dyed mostprized thosedyedmostoftenandhenceof the deepest colorbeing indigo sometimes the formed obscuring yams; completely designs originally white by warp valueattaches as increased esthetic etc.). Withineachof theseLevelI categories, the focalpoints mentioned above approached. are Thereis onlyoneexception: the colorwhichis mosttangibly in visible theirjunglesurroundings, green (even the the focalpointnearlight-or yellow-green) thenatural of is vegetation, notvalued Greenbeads,for example, "unattractive," are worthless. decoratively. Clothing




and to of are andornament valuedin proportion the sharpness contrast between,

the intensity (lack of mixture,deep quality) of "black,""red,"and "white." than is Level II terminology normallyemployedonly whengreaterspecification is possibleat Level I is required,or when the name of an object referredto happens also to be a "color"term (e.g., bulawan"gold; golden [color]"). Level II termsare of two kinds: relativelyspecificcolor wordslike (ma)dapug "gray" (< dapug "hearth; ashes"), (ma)2arum "violet," (ma)dilaw "yellow" (< dilaw basedon such specificterms- or on Level I names "tumeric");and constructions, -but involving further derivations,such as mabirubiru"somewhatmabiru" (more specificthan mabirualone only in that a color which is not a solid, deep, black is implied, i.e., a color classed within the mabirucategoryat Level I, but not at or nearthe focal point), mabiiru(gid) "verymabiru"(heresomethingclose "weak yellow." to the focal centerof jet black is designated), and madilawdilaw Much attentionis paid to the textureof the surfacereferredto, the resultingdegree and type of reflection (iridescent,sparkling, dull), and to admixtureof other nonformal qualities. Frequentlythese noncolorimetric aspects are consideredof the morespectrally-definable qualitiesservingonly as secondprimaryimportance, are attributes.In eithercase polymorphemic descriptions common. ary of in At LevelII thereis a noticeabledifference the readycolorvocabulary men to to women.The formerexcel (in the degreeof specification which as compared they carry such classificationterminologically) in the ranges of "reds" and "grays"(animals,hair, feather,etc.); the latter,in "blues" (shadesof indigo-dyed or holds for the "greens" "whites." similardifference fabrics). No discernible In short, we have seen that the apparentcomplexityof the Hanunoo color systemcan be reducedat the most generalizedlevel to four basic termswhich are associatedwith lightness,darkness,wetness,and dryness.This intracultural analyat that sis demonstrates what appearsto be color "confusion" firstmay result from an inadequateknowledgeof the internalstructureof a color system and from a failure to distinguishsharplybetweensensoryreceptionon the one hand and peron ceptualcategorization the other.


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