Prototypical and Stereotypical Color in Slavic Languages: Models Based on Folklore

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Lyudmila Popovic, Ph.D., Slavic Department, Belgrade University


Cognitive theory of worldview in language specifies speakers’ ability to isolate a prototype as the construct of interpretative reality and to use a stereotype as an associative prototype, a process undertaken by certain Slavic cultures. Linguistic conceptualization of basic color categories provides data to explore criteria for assigning prototypes as well the reasons to encode stereotypes. Data derive from 19th-century Russian, Ukrainian, and Serbian folklore.

Therein, color prototypes are radiant and positive, nonprototypes not radiant, negative, and secondary, for which they come to symbolize negative stereotypes. Each color concept harbors a duality of both semantic potentials, which appear to descend from like oppositions in ancient ancestral languages. The data provide background in time depth for comparison with results from associative experiments and with results from psycholinguistic research in contemporary Russian and Ukrainian.



Cognitive linguistics embraces worldview as part of its primary design. This helps us to understand how cognitive structures are reflected in language and how their formation is influenced by sociophysical reality (Lakoff 1987). Here we resume the well-known triad language, thought, and reality, such that we may find a model of the way such structures interpenetrate. Language sign structure means simultaneous representation of terms and conception; reality structure includes mutual relations between appearance, denotative space, meaning, and space-time; whereas, the timing fragment of reality to which this appearance belongs, while thinking structure of thought is enigmatic, individual, and resistant to inquiry that is purely linguistic. Meanwhile, thought structure implies mentalized perceptions and processes by which information is conceptualized. They proceed by generalizing, typologizing, inducing, deducing, analogizing, and other operations.
Such conceptualization criteria for apprehension of reality provokes special interest in the structure of thought. The important desideratum for choosing criteria of linguistic conceptualization is that reality can be either perceived or not perceived through experience of the speaker. If a referent and its denotative space represents part of individual experience, the speaker formats psychological experience according to his point of view, idiosyncratic or shared. The individual shapes the denotative space of that phenomenon, bringing a typology into the scope of subjective identification according to criteria of “good” versus “bad.” 
The way conceptualization is modeled can be characterized as subjectivizing the concrete denotative space, which is obtained by embracing in a certain context not only spaciotemporal characteristics but correlated experience of the speaker, which he thusly incorporates into his view of the world. Each fragment of reality is identified with such a context. Depending on place, the phenomenon can be identified as “good” and “bad” at the same time, that is, in the so-called cognitive frame. 
According to van Dijk (1981: 217), this is about theoretical and cognitive abstraction of different views of the world as concepts organized in a speaker’s conscience. For example, the notion of “fire” could be identified according to a criterion of “good” before a warm hearth or accordingly “bad” in a context of getting burned. The identification process is uncontrolled; we might say it is reduced to a level of mental reflexes, as could be easily realized by even a small child. We can only say “hot” to the child who has already burned his hand; he will immediately with draw his hand because he identifies fire according to a criterion of “bad,” which is reduced to the reflex initiated by the spoken stimulus. 
If that part reality is not “located” in subjective denotative space, that is, if it does not present part of the speaker’s experience, he uses a stereotype, which could be defined on the psychological level as someone else’s experience that is linked to the fragment of extralinguistic reality. Depending on context, the phenomenon can be identified as “good” and “bad” simultaneously. In language and sign, the relation between authentic and stereotypic valuation of a referent could be seen through potential separation of a basic concept and the formation of an appearance paradigm, while the stereotype alone is based on established syntagmatic relations. 
Language stereotypes are mostly Epithets, formulas, idioms, phraseologies, proverbs, statements, and the like (@PBartmiński 1985, 1988; Rosch 1975, 1978; Putnam 1975). Actually, they are about a speaker’s option to either separate a prototype as a concept of interpretative reality or use a stereotype as an associative prototype and as characteristic of a particular appearance in a specific culture. 
In this case, we are interested in color conceptualization in language, the criteria of separation of a prototype for basic color, as well as the reasons of using language stereotypes in functions of color terms. An intensive search for color universals, initiated by Berlin and Kay (1969), shows that a color concept is not only nonuniversal but that its role is restricted in human communication. What represents universals is the difference between day, when a human can see, and night when he cannot see (Wierzbicka 1996: 232); the contrast motivated many a researcher to found color typology on the opposition of light versus dark. This division is said to dominate color conception in the majority of languages around the world (ibid.); the divide suggests a reason for psychological assessment of colors in human conscience, that is, a positive relation with light colors based on waking perception of light versus a negative relation with dark colors associated with nocturnal darkness (Ivic, 1995: 62).
In this dichotomy, we find yet a second important color universal concerning denotative space, meaning, background, phoneme, and natural ambiance, in which, most of all, we notice the situation of certain manmade correlates of color. Such denotative space represents a base, which is modeled and characterizable as the speaker subjectivizing the space concretely, that is, evaluating color according to criteria of “good” versus “bad,” yet this prototype is based on personal experience. For example, some women like black color to emphasize their slim figure or blond hair and for the same do not like a white color; while some men do not like a certain green, because it reminds them of a military uniform. But, the same color in a distinct situation might be psychologically evaluated differently, for example, a woman could associate black stockings with a funeral, white ones with a wedding dress, and so on.
Subjective denotative space for psychological evaluation of colors is formed in childhood, when the child is trying to determine a world by its psychological coordinates and, in this way, to select a place in it. Using colored pens, the child always favors one of them, although he cannot articulate his relation to the colors. As time goes by, however, the subjective denotative space of colors is cast out and replaced by a stereotypic picture, one based on an image of the usual color of some thing. In this way, red color is equated with fire or blood, although a man from a temperate climate might more often come in contact with the light red color of the poppy flower or observe all nuances of red at sunset. 
The foregoing examples refer to an inference that during a man’s separation from a prototype based on personal experience, he takes his first step from the “beautiful” versus the “ugly”; but as he adopts a stereotype, he is guided by the “typical.” This approach to prototypicality matches Rosch’s (1978: 36) assertion, “By prototype of categories we have generally meant the clearest cases of category membership defined operationally by people’s judgments of goodness of membership in the category.”
Frameworks of other principles regarding prototype separation emerge in: 
(1) linguistics as a model of ideal subject certified in language (Wierzbicka 1985: 81); 
(2) philosophy of language as first example of a research category (Putnam 1975, 1989); 
(3) psycholinguistic and philosophy of language as experience connected with an object or 
situation (Lakoff 1987). These principles provide grounds for thinking about ideal sample of color or about it’s “bad” type starting from the subjective assessment, while the stereotype has lost it’s primary motivation and function of affirming the criteria of “typical sample” as adjusted to the cultural climate. 
The language of folklore give us the ideal corpus for researching the relations between prototypical and stereotypical ways of color conceptualization, because, on the one hand, folklore conserves elements of primary subjective color evaluation starting from the prototype, which confirms the role of color as a symbol; while, on the other, it already functions as a stereotype, which will, as we shall see that later, store everlasting traces in its linguistic tradition, as we shall see from etymologies.
It is clear that a song becomes a symbol if its lyrics refer to something evanescent or cryptic. Of special interest to color symbolic research is color nomination in the language of folklore. By its architecture, folklore produces conditions for origination and realization of esthetic meaning. Further, it represents a genre in which emotive contexts produce a psychological semantic plan of color terms, dislocates their nominative meanings, and sometimes represses them by a generally symbolic interpretation. Color terms ingress into folklore as a prototype, which is based on psychological apprehension about “good” color as a positive symbol and about “bad” color as a symbol of evil. 
Considering that this is about visual perception, a complex positive appraisal of beautiful color reminds us of the Greek concept “kaloskagatos” (synthesis of beautiful and good) and vice versa. 
As time goes by, a color term looses its symbolic meaning as an emotive prototype and dissimulates into a stereotype, as is represented by so-called dead epithets.
After the analysis is conducted on the semantic potentiality of color terms in Ukrainian, Serbian and Russian folklore, it will be found that symbolic interpretations based on the prototypical conceptualization of colors present the most dominant part of color-term semantics in that traditional expression. They represent the sphere that is communal for all three systems, that is, they represent the kernel around which other meanings spread, while the semantics includes the stereotypical associations, as with white=color of milk; black=color of coal, and many others.

Color Terms in Folklore

We can illustrate the foregoing thesis by componentially analyzing semantic potentials of color terms that occur frequently in elaborated corpuses of Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian folklore (Kirijevskij, 1986; Franko 1966; Karadzhic 1977). From these, about 4000 examples of color terms are excepted (fully presented in Popovic 1991a). Analytic results are seen in table 1, where the signs of + or – mark presence of absesnce of lexicosemantic features in selected texts.

@@[Table 1 here]

The grater part of the semantic potentiality of analyzed color terms are their symbolic interpretations which in most cases correspond in all three corpuses, as shown in table 1. For example, in the semantic structure of the term for white we note these meanings, which are bassic to the function of attributes appropriate to white as a symbol: ‘bright’ (@R белый день, @U білий день, @S бели дан), ‘light’ (@R белы кудри, @U білий світ, @S бели свет), ‘clean’ (@R белы ручки @U біле ложе, @S бијело тело), ‘beautiful, healthy’ (@R бел жених, @U біла яко ягода, @S бела снашица), ‘solemn, festal’ (@R бел платок, @U біле вбрання, @S беле даре), ‘pale, sickly’ (@R от бела лица больна), ‘virgin’ (@R невестушка белая,@S бијело голубиће), ‘magical’ (@S бела вила), ‘unfriendly’ (@U білий враг). On close scrutiny and disregarding lexicosemantic variation, we see that these color terms have a specific and special aesthetic bipolarity. Each semantic interpretation reduces to one of two principles – positive or negative color experience. Such opposition underpins symbolic assignment. For terms designating white, the positive pole includes ‘clear,’ ‘light,’ ‘clean,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘solemn,’ ‘festive,’ and ‘virgin,’ the negative ‘pale,’ ‘sickly,’ ‘magical,’ ‘unfriendly.’ For terms naming black, the positive is ‘beautiful’ or ‘solumn,’ the negative ‘dark,’ ‘ill-omened,’ ‘magical,’ ‘heavy,’ ‘shameful,’ and more.
With such division, we can “cross” semantic potentials of different color terms and can get two lines or appropriate opposite pares. The two are formed by independent aesthetic principles, that is, according to prototypical “good” / “bad” color, which include their nominative meanings. So the positive principle separates ‘light,’ ‘radiant,’ ‘clean,’ ‘solemn,’ ‘festive,’ ‘dear,’ ‘good,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘agile.’ The named variants belong to a context of semantic potentiality for these color terms: @R белый, @U білий, @S бео, @R золотой, @U золотий, @S златан, @R румяный, @U рум’яный, @S румен, @R черный, @U чорний, @S црн (white, golden, ruddy, black) as well as for many others in the three corpuses. Their adequate symbolic interpretation fosters appropriate aesthetic synonymy, which explains functioning of syntax common to folklore, such as @S девојка бела и румена, сив-зелен соко, @R сив бел сокол It also explains color “contamination,” as Ivic (1995: 96) interprets for gray and green in his “About a Green Horse.” The second separable synonym line is negative: ‘dark,’ ‘pale’, ‘unhealthy,’ ‘dirty,’ ‘shameful,’ ‘sinister,’ ‘magical,’ ‘unfriendly,’ and so forth. Starting from the semantic potential of color terms @R черный, @U чорний, @S црн, @R синий, @U синій, @S сињ, @R белый, @U білий, @S бео (black, blue, white) and others, we can restore an isofunctional relation plus their nominative meanings (complete listing in Popovic 1991a curtailed here to the terms of tabel 1).
Certain synonym and antonym relations, through their variants, include color terms. Exemplified syntax, such as @R милый бел да румян, is based on aesthetic parallel functionality of such color terms as those connected with semantic variants of “beautiful” and “healthy.” According to this principle, color terms could be contra functional if the variants constituting their semantic potential are opposite and if they form an antonym pair. In this way @S бео, румен (white, ruddy) and @S модар, зелен (blue, green) function as aesthetic antonyms, as in Serbian folksongs at weddings we hear that the girl before marriage was white and ruddy, @S бела и румена, but after the marriage she becomes blue and green, модра и зелена (Karadzhic 1977: 7-59).
Opposition between these color terms is based on antonymy of ‘beautiful’ versus ‘ugly,’ ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy,’ which constitute a certain semantic potentiality. Assigning of the lexicosemantic variants concretely connects each with only one color term, as @S бела functions in the meaning of ‘beautiful’ and @S модра in ‘ugly.’ These are symbolic, vibrant meanings based on appreciative experience of the color. Such meanings could not be transmitted in another way, say, by paraphrase, because this would eliminate the characteristic symbolic parallelism with its formulated mysticism (Eco, 1995: 97).
In the semantic structure of color terms, sometimes is found enanthiosemy (@G εναντιος [contrary] + @G σημα [meaning]), that is, adjectives with color meaning in their semantic potentiality but also with semantic features of different aesthetic facets – positive or negative. For example, the Ukrainian color term @U чорний ‘black’ further means ‘dirty, ordinary,’ @U чорна сорочечка ‘dirty shirt’. But @U чорний further means ‘new, clean, solemn’: @U я би його шанувала, в чорні шати убирала ‘I would honour him, dress him in a black (solemn) suit’. A Russian term for color has meanings of ‘beautiful, shiny, solemn’: @R сине глазоньки, синь кафтан, but also ‘dark,’ ‘pale,’ ‘unhappy’: @R синеньки, худеньки; сине тучи. Such variants show that one color is simultaneously composed by diametrically opposite aesthetics within one national conscience. By what means does the conscious beholder accomplish these complex semantics, and how might they pertain to the attested prototypicality? As suggested by analyzing semantic fields of color terms, a synchronic and diachronic basis of conceptualization repeatedly emerges as the “intensive” criterion, the maximum expression of a definite concept in the base of one color prototype.

Radiance in Prototypicality

Most of the basic color terms are developed from a meaning connected to ‘shine’ or ‘flash.’ We might suppose this persists in the nuances of color prototypes, at least in a repetitive appreciation for qualities of reflected light, as with shinning or glittering. In support are the etymologies of most primary color terms, for example, white (@R белый, @U білий, @S бео) and others were developed from Indo-European @L *bhā ‘to radiate, to shine, to glare’ (Shanskij, 1963, I: 88; ESUM, 1982, I: 196; Skok, 1971, I: 152); blue (@S сињ, @R синий, @U синій etc.) from the Indo-European base *skei- (Preobrazhenskij, 1959, II: 287; Skok, 1973, III: 239), which is connected to glare and radiance; adjectives yellow, green, golden (@R жёлтый, зелёный, золотой, @U жовтий зелений, золотий, @S жут, зелен, златан etc.) were developed from the Indo-European root *ghel-, *ghol- (Ancient Slavic @RL*gъļtъ), also terms of radiance (ESUM 1985, II: 275; Skok 1973, III: 648); ruddy (@R румяный, @U рум’яний @S румен etc.), which is etymologically primary in the semantic field of red color, owes its frequent use in folk texts to later red (@R красный, @U червоний, @S црвен), which emerged from the Ancient Slavic root *roud-, also connected to radiance ([Skok, 1973, III: 171] compare in Serbian “the dawn is blushing” @S зора се руди or the term for shiny red hair @U рудий in Ukrainian). The investigators of Ancient Slavic roots ascribe the Indo-European base *roudh- with the same meaning (Herne, 1954: 58).
The maximal manifestation of radiant characteristics during conceptualization of a prototype serve as criteria for certain color assortments in the positive aesthetic system. 
Therefore, in folklore which as a genre differs by positive aesthetic homogeny of texts – for example, wedding texts -is the frequent usage of color terms such as white, ruddy, golden, which reinforces the impression of a shiny, sunny, bright, and joyous atmosphere. 
The prototypical “bad” colors are marked by absence of radiance. Concepts that allude to loss of basic color quality we can nominally mark “radiance – (minus)”, the opposite of “radiance +.” Loss of the primal quality–the radiance–predominates in the transformation of typical, natural color to atypical, unnatural color. This is the point at which the prototypical and stereotypical conceptualizations come together. The positive color prototype concept is based on a manifestation of the radiance characteristic of color, while the stereotypic content derives from its loss. This is a critical quality of objects or appearances that differ by natural color, such as skin, hair, and other bodily semblance. These referents do not comprise artifacts, that is, products of human activity (to be discussed later). Those that connote radiance are semantically primary, while those conveying its loss are semantically secondary.
The thesis is illustrated by transformation of skin color. The prototypes of human skin from our temperate European climate are based on a concept of white or ruddy color, whence color incident upon a reduced situation differs by loss of the radiance, for example, white (mortuary white, unhealthy white – pale without radiance) or red (without radiance) that refers to hardships of health – high blood pressure, etc. (compare Serbian @S црвен у лицу [color nominated by situation, without radiance] and Ukrainian @U червоні щічки – ruddy cheeks – and often in portraits of women, wherein red color is semantically primary and high in radiance). Typical skin color of various black races, as based on positive prototype valuation, is bright black and sometimes dark-blue (in Serbian folk songs @S Арапин мор ‘black Arab,’ in Russian эфиопы сини’ ‘ black Ethiopians’), while dark blue without radiance is reserved for skin color negative in prototype of people from our temperate climes, taking an example from Russian folklore: @R синеньки, худеньки ‘blue skin, skinny.’
Determined by situation, atypical color is marked in opposition to what is semantically primary; therefore absence of color radiance is marked in reference to its normal presence, which means that the negative color prototype is secondary–the reverse of the positive primary. The prototype of positively perceived color, that is, radiance, resides in the base of the stereotype, a typical sample of its sort.
Ivanov & Toporov (1965) reshuffle typologies of the primary archaic system of abstract classifications. They isolate within the framework of this semantic system a dichotomy of white versus black, not as an opposition to visually based feelings but as contrasting halves of the world—black as dark and white as light but removed from any background of dark. Parallel to this opposition, they segregate a further contrast, reshuffled as red versus black, and they caution on “functional identity of white and red who pose the reverse to black” (p. 201). Their conclusion, on the one hand, illustrates the present claim about isofunctionality of color with a positive “radiance +” concept, white and red, while, on the other, it simplifies the approach to perception and conceptualization of colors, which could be reduced only on one principle – positive or negative. Such an approach contradicts these authors, because they are confronted in the same research with the following: at different realms within the boundaries a singular opposition, the relation of color as marked versus unmarked can change (p. 193).
Starting with the research on color symbolism in folklore, we can add that this relation can change in the framework of the kind of semantic system that incorporates enanthiosemy in color terms, optional and mutually exclusive features. Accepting the aesthetic bipolarity of each color as potentially positive or negative, we further presume the archaic system of “radiant – non radiant” and according to the dichotomy posing semiotic color oppositions. In this case, there are such oppositions as these: radiant white – white without radiance; radiant white – black without radiance; radiant black – white without radiance; radiant black – black without radiance; radiant red – black without radiance. Obviously, the quality of radiance is marked on the term for black color in the same manner that absence of radiance is marked on the term for white color. Such is confirmed by their etymologies and physical attributes: each color has dual aesthetic-semantic structure in the process of development and perfection of reality conceptualization in human conscience. 
Our research deals with the phenomenon that describes the dualistic system of the color concepts “radiant– non radiant,” such as etymological data and narrated facts regarding color terms in the oldest linguistically accessible civilizations. For example, in one sentence from Upanishads we can find traces of such archaic system: “Red color of flame is a color of fire, white color of fire is color of water, black color of fire is color of the land” (Birren, 1978: 19). Researchers project that this phrase is mystic and they interpret it in the fabric of their preconceptions (Wierzbicka, 1996: 253), but we can find in this example confirmation for the symbolic isofunctionality of colors, that which is based on the positive concept of prototypical colors as radiant and shiny. In such a context, phrases can be decoded: radiant red color is a color of fire, radiant white color is a color of water, radiant black color is a color of land. That is, the three basic colors are connected according to a positive appraisal, and they are assigned as attributes to essential, known elements. From that, we can further deduce that the three primary colors in the same aesthetic-symbolic system should be received also in accord with the negative principle in another semantic context, that is, white, black and red should be comprehend as negatively founded on loss of the basic quality–on absence of radiance.

Contemporary Primitives

A parallel to our dualistic archaic system of “radiant – non radiant” prevails in color semantics of some primitive nations. Universalist color-term researches using the so-called table of colors (catalogue of all color nuances) became popular with Berlin and Kay (1969). But, sometimes, researchers are confronted with contradictions during sample identification by questionnaires, because color terms which circulate in some tribes do not mach with any from familiar models. Such was confronted by Jones and Meehan (1978), who describe two basic color terms: “gungaltja” and “gungundja” in the Gynuingali language of an Australian Aboriginal band. It turns out that “gungaltja” does not correspond to the Munsell table, but the Aboriginal interviewee managed to demonstrate its meaning on shiny foil that lay across a bench in their tent. Later he sorted among the pigmented chips “gungaltja” as only about 10%, while he identified the other 90% as from the contrasting “gungundja” class. In this modern archaic opposition, people perceive on the basis of “radiant-nonradiant,” the analogue of our proposal from archaic Slavic and Indo-European reconstruction.
Acceptance of dualistic conceptualization for each color of which roots we find in archaic semantic systems addresses questions confronting color universalists. There are difficulties connected to earlier attempts to divide colors according to light versus dark. Researchers strove to reduce all colors on this principle, which meant that speakers of any language that uses only two two basic color terms obligatorily apply one term to “light,” the other to “dark.” But, the model ambiguously sanctions assortment of red colors in one of the classes, because researchers do not agree on this question (Turner, 1966; Heider, 1972; Conklin, 1973). Further, sorting of red color among the light stimuli inspired perfection of this model to admit “cold” versus “warm”, that is, the words distinguish light-warm versus dark-cold (Heider, 1972), as well as light versus dark-warm colors as in Gynuingali (Jones and Meehan 1978). Yet this model also could be even further discussed, because the dichotomy of warm versus cold color is not natural for many ethnic populations.
Trying to solve this problem, Wierzbicka (1996: 267-276) proposes a macro concept model, that is, of macro white, macro black and macro red color, in which imperfection pervaded this one-sided concept of each individual color. Wierzbicka mentions the connection of macro white with radiance and brilliance; she also suggests that in languages of primitive tribes that use only two color terms, such lexemes actually are not color nominations, rather “generalized description of a reality aspect, as well as visual sensation according to it” (Wierzbicka 1996: 272). But, flaws of her conception are seen in that each color is a one-sided observation sorted into one class of macro white or macro black or macro red. Rather, the dualistic conception based on opposition of “radiant – non radiant” gives us grounds for each color assortment in both classes simultaneously, thus conforming to the radiance concept. Perception of radiance as present or absent is surely connected to the exterior color environment: shortage of sunlight causes absence of radiance as well as so-called dark or cold colors; conversely, plenitude of sunlight causes light and warm colors with radiance and brilliance identification. But it still remains that each color can be both light and dark, cold and warm, which depends on its positive or negative prototype actualization in recipient conscience.

National Worldviews

Considering each color as one-sided, only as one principle symbol–positive or negative even in the reference of one national worldview–sooner or later a contradiction will arise with a subsequent demand of an account. For example, in research on color symbolism in Slavic medicine, Radenkovic (1989:141) connects each color with only one aesthetic pole. Yet confronting the problem of dual symbolic meaning of certain color terms, researchers confirm the aesthetic ambivalence of red and grey, which they explain by their medial locality in color systems. The need to explain certain meanings which do not fit a one-sided system testifies to the aesthetic ambivalence of colors. Thus, it is difficult to start only from a positive symbol to explain meanings of ‘sickly,’ ‘unfriendly.’ or ‘magical,’ which are imposed on terms for white in Russian and Serbian folklore, or on black as a materialization of evil; whereas, black symbolizes ‘beautiful’ and ‘solemn’ in Ukrainian folklore (table 1).
As a further example, the primary color term golden (@R золотой, @U золотий, @S златан etc.) is marked exclusively by positive symbolism, which is compatible with the criterion of perceiving “radiance+,” but according to the etymological analyses, color terms combining green with yellow stem from the Indo-European root *ghel- in whose evolution we notice two tendencies. First, a semantic line from Indo-European *ghel- ‘to radiance, to light’ can be followed in ancient Irish glõr ‘shine,’ glõra ‘to shine,’ in the ancient Greek @G χλορος syncretism of ‘yellow-green, radiant, bright,’ in Ancient Indian hātaka ‘gold,’ in East Lithuanian @C želtas `golden`, @C želvé – ‘red mushroom, field mushroom,’ in Lithuanian zèlte ‘gold,’ and in Slavic languages derivatives of the base *zolto-. Second and in contrast, is the obvious phonetic-product identity of examples meaning ‘gall, gall-bladder, irritability, anger, rage, poison,’ which also are traced to Indo-European *ghel- (compare ancient-Greek χολη, χολος, German @E gelbsüchtig, Ancient-Slavic злъчь, Lithuanian @C tulžis) and which provode convenient facts about the reality of opposite semantic model (e.g., Nechipurenko, 1989: 13). Evolution of opposite meanings from one Indo-European root is obviously connected with color perception according to the criterion `radiance+` – in this way we have “the pulsing” of red color in the words from the first semantic group, and in the second is the perception of yellow color of physiological liquid which is muddy and dispossessed of shiny quality (Nechpurenko [p. 11] tries to explain this contamination by changing the color of denotative grass from green to yellow and, later, to red, although it is not clear why he chooses only grass if the primary meaning of *ghel- is reconstructable as ‘to shine, to light’). 
The positive conception of bright green and the negative green without brightness can be also confirmed by examples in different languages. Welsh preserves the color term gwyrrd, which nowadays approximaes English green. But Wierzbicka associates its meaning with radiant green grass after the rain: “In this case, it isn’t so much vegetation that is taken for reference, as much the prototypical situation. . . The whole scenario is reproduced in consciousness by living, natural verdure” (Wierzbicka, 1996:255). On the contrary, some things that English-speakers consider green Welsh-speakers consign to dark blue (Hjelmslev, 1953: 53), that is, they interpenetrate blue with green and grey. Regarding negative symbolism of green, Cherepanova (1983:66) interprets green as the functional synonym for black and blue according to this syntax: @R синий, чёрный, зелёный чёрт ‘dark blue, black, green devil.’
In Slavic folklore texts, blue is, as well as yellow, often marked with negative symbolism. We presume pre-Slavic @S *синь arises from Indo-European *skei-, which is interpreted as a concept that has synthesized within itself two opposite meanings – ’light’ and ’shadow; for there are examples from ancient Indian chaya ’shadow’ and Gothic skeinan ’radiance’ (Dzivak, 1973: 56).
Taking a diachronic overview, if both aesthetic poles for one color term in one language system are equally strong, they have conserved both symbolic meanings (e.g., @R синий in Russian folklore). If one of the aesthetic meanings has overcome the other (@S сињ in Serbian), the symbolism may become one-sided, for example, a domanant negative color perception gradually can be overridden by others of positive pursuasion, as in Serbian negative плав was repressed by positive @S сињ.
Following the notion of aesthetic bipolarity, we can explain unusual color-term polisemy, which is akin to enanthiosemy. For example, in the semantic composition of @S плав are these meanings: “1. ‘color of radiant sky’; 2. ‘dark, closed’; 3. ‘light yellow’” (Rechnik, 1967-1976, IV: 444). Color of the radiant sky and the nuance of radiant yellow are connected by the basic concept of radiance, which is opposite the sense of ‘closed, dark.’
In some North Russian provinces of the 19th Century, the color term @R голубой was used for marking gray with radiance, with blue, and with yellow (Dal’1903: 914), which could be sorted into aesthetic synonyms on as basis of “radiance+” criteria.
In Russian and Serbian folklore are examples of functional synonymy of color terms: @R бел-лазоревый платок ‘white, light blue wrap,’ сив-зелен соко ‘ grey, green falcon,’ модра-зелена свила ‘dark blue, green silk,’ @S жут-бео коњ ‘yellow, white horse,’ which directly connect gray and green, livid and green, yellow and white and, thus, testify about different color appraisals starting from the same aesthetic criteria. For example: @S модра-зелена марама ‘dark blue, green wrap’ and above mentioned @S девојка модра и зелена ‘dark blue, green girl’ are different in the nominal situation; actual terms for livid and green (@S модар и зелен), which are not usual attributes for skin color in modern comprehension (Ancient Indian @L hāri- and Ancient Greek @G χλορος signified ‘yellow,’ ‘green,’ but also ‘pale’) are based on criterial “radiance –”, while “radiance +” lies in the base of the first example. In this case, we find oppositions of radiant green versus green minus radiance, radiant green versus livid minus radiance, radiant livid versus livid minus radiance, radiant livid versus green minus radiance.
Green and gray contamination abounds in Serbian folklore. Aesthetic attributes show isofunctionality in these examples: @S зелен коњj, зелен топ, зелена пушка, зелен соко, сив соко, витезови сиви, зелена му сабља и рука ‘green horse, green gun, green cannon, green falcon, grey falcon, grey knights, green is his sword as his arm’–in each of these epithets with equal success could be found attributes of @S сјајан ‘radiant’ (further means ‘great’). In one case, this pertains to radiance of plumage or hair, in other radiance of metal, but in both cases dominates denotata of positive perception, connected to background, sound, and lyrics, that is, for universal exhilaration which follows a scene in folk song. As Ivic (1995: 97) observes, “In our folk poetry @S зеленко is not only a hero’s friend in his warlike struggles, he is also a parade horse, appropriate appearance on ceremonies of mighty and rich.”
Gray of hair without radiance also could be replaced by green, as in @S зелен во ‘green ox’, but while it is usual to talk about a horse’s radiant hair, the radiant hair of an ox, dog, or even a wolf is marked. As Ivic (p. 96) finds, “Our Greenish @S Зељов is green as a wolf, but when he sheds hair he is sallow.” Opposition is based on radiant hair color before shedding and before the loss of radiance as shedding progresses.

Prototype versus Stereotype

Use of color terms to name attributes of skin or hair as assigned both by the situation and by semantically coherent definitions of artifact color, calls forth the issue about prototype and stereotype conceptualization of the same colors. Loss of radiance by a denotata whose color is usually radiant is a logical reason for marking its negative perception. But, during positive or negative perception of artifact color, radiant quality does not serve as a basic perceptual component in a prototype, rather it provides one element of stereotypically radiant color as beautiful, rich, or luxuriant. Compare the mass-culture stereotypical tendency of, so to say, thrashy work of art – shiny leather, brilliant clothes, costume jewels, metallic car paint, and tinsel Christmas ornamentation.
A concept of radiance that is directly evident during formation of certain color prototypes, construction of meaning, or shaping of related personal experience, does not have to be an obligatory element of stereotypical language conception of that same color. Rather, the radiance concept ingresses in a stereotype through the appropriate prototype which intrudes as dominant. The role of folk texts in stereotype formation is crucial, whereupon the stereotypes come to dominate in the view of the world cast by modern language. The color terms of folklore, with their prototypes based on the presence or absence of “radiance” and that so condition positive or negative symbolism, are perpetuated in contemporary language according to the principle of the typical and ideal sample, that is, a stereotype.
We shall try to confirm our thesis using data from a questionnaire about the Ukrainian and Russian asocial pictures of people. Psycholinguistic experimental results, as the questionnaire itself, is from Terekhova (1997). The experiment questioned 300 Ukrainians and 283 Russians. It obliquely investigated psycholinguistic characteristics of bodily reception in Ukrainian and Russian contemporary language. But, as seen from its results, it could have as well been conducted in the 19th Century, because the most frequent associations were based on traditional comprehensions of ideals for male and female beauty, and these were taken from folklore. For example, black color of hair was chosen by 68 Ukrainians, and the blonde by only 31. In sentences with key words of bodily reference, for which were expected appropriate color terms to be written, the black color of hair in the pictured Ukrainian womenly image was chosen by all subjects on their questionnaires; but on 49 Russian questionnaires blond hair was chosen, while on only 11 Russian questionnaires chose black hair (pp. 48-49). These results absolutely correspond with those of color terms researches based on 19th-century Ukrainian and Russian folklore (Popovic, 1991a). In those Ukrainian folk texts, the gradation of the beauty ideal is directly connected with hair color. Thus in the song @U Ой у полі три криниченьки ‘There were three wells in the field’ we read these verses: @U Любив козак три дівчиноньки:/ чорнявую та білявую,/ третю руду препоганую.// Що чорнявую від душі люблю,/ до білявої залицяюся,/ а з рудою препоганою/ підy навік розпрощаюся (Once a Cossack loved three girls:/ a black-haired, a fair-haired, the third was red-haired.// The black-haired I love with all my heart,/ the fair-haired only a little /and the red-haired one/ I will leave for always). The brunette is in first place, blonde in second, and red-headed women have the role of comical, ugly characters. In Russian texts, the ideal of female beauty is obligatorily blonde. That many contemporary women in Ukraine choose exactly a nuance of blond or red color when they want to change their natural hair color testifies to how much this linguistic stereotype does not match reality. Here the linguistic stereotype does not correspond to the behavioral stereotype, which suggests that the linguistic stereotype actually is not constitutive of a worldview. Rather, it is often connected to syntagmatic associations, which are purely linguistic, that is, based on quotation. 
For other bodily traits, as with skin color, most questionnaires in each culture chose white (80 in each). Brown, sun-tanned skin color, is less popular according to frequency of linguistic stereotype (totaling 30 questionnaires in each group). From these data arise a questions about motivations of the sun’s popularity and of desired vacations on southern seas, from which women obligatory return sun-tanned.
Cheek color presents a special section in the questionnaire. According to its results, the ideal of Ukrainian beauty is connected to red color of cheeks (98 questionnaires), less choose ruddy color (81), and rose takes third place (53). In Russian, associative portraited cheeks are first of all ruddy (83), next red (79), and then rose (41). It is interesting that in Serbian the red color of cheeks first of all associates with a sanitary hardship – @S црвен у лицу, while the color term @S румен took over functions of whole pallets for cheeky skin color. The popularity of red color as a beautiful cheek attribute is equated with the red kalina (a bush with small red berries, Viburnum opulus), which has a role in Ukrainian folklore. The association is of a beautiful girl–red kalina in repose of this folk symbol, which is based on perception of radiant red fruits. We can infer that the radiant concept appears as a basic component of red color perception in the folk prototype, and from folklore as a linguistic stereotype the concept enters contemporary language, looses its primary motivation, and becomes mystical. The motivation of Russian kalina symbolism has a different nature–as a basic prototype concept served as fruit of bitter taste. From this point is derived the semantics of a basic plan transferred to the denoted referent: kalina is, first of all, a symbol of lovelorn separation and ruinous marriage (Djachenko, 1997: 69; Avtamonov, 1902:50). The concept of red radiant color as the prototype of healthy complexion in Russian folklore is connected to another symbol–@R алый цветок (light red colored flower)–that of love and the beloved (Djachenko, 1997:70).
In Ukrainian associative portraits, puce color dominates the eyes (93), followed by light blue (56), dark blue (37), green (28), sky blue (25), black (22), and gray (17), while in Russian portraits light blue (71) prevails over brown (59), green (34) and dark blue (22). As these data show, no bigger variations from folk epithets pertain to this bodily feature.


When we embrace all examples and facts as singular manifestations of a whole appearance, we can conclude that the micro system of color terms is grounded in recipient conscience as a complex of aesthetic evaluation. In this, we can isolate prototypic elements, based on personal experience and in accord with a primary reception in a denotative context of the basic radiant quality and stereotypic elements–an associative prototype taken from someone else’s experience, which is, in first instance, collective experience as a component of national worldview reflected, among all else, in folk texts.


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