I was thinking about this question and answer about how cephalopods might develop a language, in this case a visual one.

How would linguistics term a language that is communicated visually as a cycling of colors?

For example, this video shows a cuttlefish using a rapid cycling of skin color to aid it in capturing it's prey.

Now let's say cuttlefish began to use their color changing ability to develop a language based on frequency of skin color change. What kind of language would that be? What would linguists call it?

  • 1
    VOR is a science fiction novel by James Blish, 1958, in which the first alien we encounter apparently speaks a color language. Its name is violet-orange-red, as I recall.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 19:20
  • No such natural language currently exists, so there is no standard term.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 0:14
  • @GregLee I'm new here. Do you know why people keep downvoting my question? Am I using terminology incorrectly? Or is my question just too ignorant to be considered a good question for this site? Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 16:43
  • Personally, I don't participate in this business of policing the asking of questions -- I don't approve of it. So I'm not a good one to ask. About your question, it's not really a linguistic question, since you're just asking for a term. It might be interesting to ask what a color language would be like, but who cares what it would be called?
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 19:44
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    @GregLee I'm interested in what it would be called because I'd like to google it and read about it, but I can't find a term to google. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


I guess visuo-chromatic (or perhaps visuo-pigmental) would be the proper term. You can mostly hear about audio-oral languages or forms of communication, occasionally also about visuo-gestural ones (sign languages) or even tactile ones (sign languages for deaf-blind people).

  • Can you provide any links to a description of this system of categorizing languages? Like, what terms are available to concatenate for creating these terms? Or, is it just something informally constructed? Or did you just invent this? Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 19:12
  • I do not believe there is any closed bank of such terms and they are coined based on necessity (which does not arise very often to be honest, there are only so many ways people communicate with each other). The most frequent one by far is audio-oral, I have not heard/read visuo-gestural more than twice. In any case, you can see that this is constructed as [method of perceiving]-[method of producing], so you just pick the right Latin/Greek words. Now that I think of it - visuo-pigmental might be even more proper in case of skin colour change.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 19:22

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