4

One the one hand, Berlin and Kay found a linguistic hierarchy of colors. On the other hand, some languages have several kinds of colors.

In French, color adjectives are invariable if they come from nouns, e.g. orange, marron (brown).

In Japanese there are (in my view) four kinds of colors:

  • four i adjectives (the older and 'purer' class of adjectives): 黒い (kuroi, black), 白い (shiroi, white), 赤い (akai, red), 青い (aoi, blue/green);
  • three kanji representing colors but not directly i adjectives themselves: 黄 (ki, yellow), 紫 (murasaki, purple), 緑 (midori, green);
  • words meaning explicitly 'the color of X': 茶色 (chairo, brown, lit. 'color of tea'), 灰色 (haiiro, grey, lit. 'color of ash'), 銀色 (gin'iro, 'color of silver'), etc. (possibly an open list);
  • words coming from English: pinku, orenji, etc.

Are there other languages where there exist different grammatical classes of color adjectives?

  • Invariable orthographically speaking and not linguistically speaking. – amegnunsen Apr 17 at 11:26
6

Much like Japanese, Swahili/Kiswahili has two classes of adjectives: the closed class of inflecting adjectives, and the open class of non-inflecting adjectives.

In the closed/inflecting class, there are only three color terms: red, white, and black. These are the three thought to be inherited from Proto-Bantu (and correspond nicely to Berlin and Kay's hierarchy).

All other color terms go in the open/non-inflecting class. Some of these are loanwords (buluu "blue", from English; dhahabu "golden", from Arabic), while others are nouns repurposed for their colors (-a kijani "green", literally "of the leaf"; -a kijivu "gray", literally "of ashes").

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