Logic and Colour

Dany Jaspers

Department of Linguistics
Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium



Part 1

In the course of history, there have been many attempts to capture patterns of perceptual colour opposition in diagrammatic representations. In the first lecture, we shall trace some of the history of these attempts and argue that the postulated patterns of opposition between cardinal colours – represented by such lexical items as red, green, blue, yellow, black, white, magenta and cyan – , though dated in several respects, are in their basics sursprisingly similar to the relational pattern that has been proposed between the logical operators that define predicate logic, represented by the lexical items all/every, some/any, no. We shall see that some of the historical debates in both domains were actually variants the same discussion about two different realms of the natural language lexicon. 

Part 2

In this lecture we turn to the formal evidence showing that Wittgenstein’s intuition about a logic of colour relations is to be taken near-literally. We will show with a Smessaert-type bitstring algebra that definitions for logical operators are transferable to basic colour categories and describe relations such as those between complementary colours, etc. in formal detail. We will go into linguistic data, where the pattern imposes a distinction between natural and non-natural lexicalization (such as *nand and *nall in the lexis of logic; cyan and magenta in the field of colour terms)

Part 3

In the third part, we will argue in favour of an internalist view on colour and on what are called linguistic functional categories. It will be shown that the pattern established is extendable to other functional domains such as morphological tense distinctions in English, person and number, as well as to several non-functional categories (Seuren & Jaspers 2014). 



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