The Color-Sense in Savages.

Popular Science, syyskuu 1879

In order to determine the capacity possessed by uncultivated races for distinguishing different colors and shades of color, Mr. Albert S. Gatschet prepared a series of colored paper slips, twenty in number, insensibly blending into each other, and by personal inquiry ascertained the names employed by various tribes of American indians for designating these differences. The result, published in the "American Naturalist," does not throw much light on the question of color-blindness in uncivilized men, for we have here not a statement of what these indians see in the way of color, but only of what their idioms are able to express. Nevertheless, the author's conclusions, which apply only to seven indian idioms, are interesting; they are as follows: 1. The indians distinguish as many as, if not more shades of color, than we do. 2. No generic term meaning color exists, and it seems that such a term is too abstract for theirconception. 3. Many of their color-terms, even the most opposite ones, are derived from one and the same radical syllable. For example, in the Kalapúya idiom blue is péiánkaf pawé-u, and yellow pé-i ántk pawé-u. 4. in the indian lists we observe some names of mixed colors which impress the eye by being not homoheneous. Such is the Klamath term mä'kmäkli, which is the blue mixed with gray, as seen in wild geese and ducks; and gray in most of the dialects means black mixed in with white, or white with black, as in the fur of the raccoon, gray fox, etc. 5. in naming some colors indians follow another principle than we do, in qualifying certain natural objects by their color, and then calling them by the same name, even when theri color has been altered. This we distinctly observe in käkä'kli, yellow and green in Klamath, the adjective having been given originally to the color of grass, trees, and other plants. Most frequently blue and green are rendered by one and the same term. 6. As stated above, indians ofter follow principles differing from ours in naming colors. The Klamath language has two terms for green, one when applied to the color of plants (käkä'kli), another when applied to garments and dress (tolalúptchi). So, too, blue, when said of beads, is expressed by a different word from the blue of flowers or of garments. 7. Reduplication of the word-root is very often met with in color-names, but the cause of this is not always the same. in Klamath and the Sahaptin dialects it is distribution and repetition (as of white hairs on a darker ground in the fur of the raccoon); in Dakota it is the idea of intensity that has produced this synthetic feature.

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