Modeling Color Terminology Across Thousands of Languages

Arya D. McCarthy, Winston Wu, Aaron Mueller, William Watson, David Yarowsky


Abstract
There is an extensive history of scholarship into what constitutes a “basic” color term, as well as a broadly attested acquisition sequence of basic color terms across many languages, as articulated in the seminal work of Berlin and Kay (1969). This paper employs a set of diverse measures on massively cross-linguistic data to operationalize and critique the Berlin and Kay color term hypotheses. Collectively, the 14 empirically-grounded computational linguistic metrics we design—as well as their aggregation—correlate strongly with both the Berlin and Kay basic/secondary color term partition (γ = 0.96) and their hypothesized universal acquisition sequence. The measures and result provide further empirical evidence from computational linguistics in support of their claims, as well as additional nuance: they suggest treating the partition as a spectrum instead of a dichotomy.
Anthology ID:
D19-1229
Volume:
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)
Month:
November
Year:
2019
Address:
Hong Kong, China
Venues:
EMNLP | IJCNLP
SIG:
SIGDAT
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
2241–2250
Language:
URL:
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/D19-1229
DOI:
10.18653/v1/D19-1229
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http://aclanthology.lst.uni-saarland.de/D19-1229.pdf
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