Colour in English: from metonymy to metaphor

Hamilton, Rachael Louise (2016) Colour in English: from metonymy to metaphor. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Colour words abound with figurative meanings, expressing much more than visual signals. Some of these figurative properties are well known; in English, for example, black is associated with EVIL and blue with DEPRESSION. Colours themselves are also described in metaphorical terms using lexis from other domains of experience, such as when we talk of deep blue, drawing on the domain of spatial position.

Both metaphor and colour are of central concern to semantic theory; moreover, colour is recognised as a highly productive metaphoric field. Despite this, comparatively few works have dealt with these topics in unison, and even those few have tended to focus on Basic Colour Terms (BCTs) rather than including non-BCTs. This thesis addresses the need for an integrated study of both BCTs and non-BCTs, and provides an overview of metaphor and metonymy within the semantic area of colour.

Conducted as part of the Mapping Metaphor project, this research uses the unique data source of the Historical Thesaurus of English (HT) to identify areas of meaning that share vocabulary with colour and thus point to figurative uses. The lexicographic evidence is then compared to current language use, found in the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American (COCA), to test for currency and further developments or changes in meaning.

First, terms for saturation, tone and brightness are discussed. This lexis often functions as hue modifiers and is found to transfer into COLOUR from areas such as LIFE, EMOTION, TRUTH and MORALITY. The evidence for cross-modal links between COLOUR with SOUND, TOUCH and DIMENSION is then presented. Each BCT is discussed in turn, along with a selection of non-BCTs, where it is revealed how frequently hue terms engage in figurative meanings. This includes the secondary BCTs, with the only exception being orange, and a number of non-BCTs. All of the evidence discussed confirms that figurative uses of colour originate through a process of metonymy, although these are often extended into metaphor.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: colour, metaphor, metonymy, semantics, corpus linguistics, corpora, Historical Thesaurus.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Anderson, Dr. Wendy and Hough, Professor Carole
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Ms Rachael Hamilton
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7353
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2016 10:54
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2016 10:52

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