The World Color Survey

The World Color Survey (WCS) was initiated in the late 1970's to test the hypotheses advanced by Berlin and Kay (1969) regarding
  • (1) the existence of universal constraints on cross-language color naming, and
  • (2) the existence of a partially fixed evolutionary progression according to which languages gain color terms over time.

Original support came from the National Science Foundation. Additional support has been received from the University of California at Berkeley, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL, International), the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI, 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94707), and three additional grants from the National Science Foundation. The WCS is now housed at ICSI.


Current Activities:

  1. The World Color Survey monograph was published by the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford, in July 2009. This monograph provides an analysis of each of the 110 basic color term systems of the WCS languages and summarizes the evidence they provide for and against hypotheses (1) and (2).
  2. An independent study of the WCS data is underway to address hypotheses (1) and (2) in terms of statistical inference. This study involves collaboration among workers at ICSI, UC Berkeley, and the University of Chicago.
  3. A series of psychological experiments is being undertaken at the University of Nevada, Reno, with ICSI / UC Berkeley collaboration, to test possible relations between universal tendencies in cross-language color naming and color perception.
  4. Recent papers based on WCS data can be found here.
  5. The WCS Data Archive can be found here.

Berlin, Brent and Paul Kay. Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles. University of California Press, 1969.
Kay, Berlin, Maffi, Merrifield, Cook. The World Color Survey. Stanford: CSLI, July 2009 (ISBN (Cloth): 9781575864150)

Page design: Kay & Cook (October, 2002).
Created: 20021010
Updated: 20110316
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