Research article
Issue: № 9 (16), 2013

Полякова Д.Н.

Кандидат филологических наук, докторант, Челябинский государственный университет



В данной статье рассматривается один из аспектов профессиональной картины мира - лингвоцветовые ассоциации представителей различных профессиональных областей - и приводятся некоторые результаты и наблюдения, сделанные в ходе практического лингвистического исследования носителей английского языка.

Ключевые слова: цветовосприятие, колороним, лингвоцветовая ассоциация.

Polyakova D.N.

Candidate of Philological Sciences, doctoral student, Chelyabinsk State University



The article considers one of the aspects of professional world view, such the peculiarities of color associations observed among English speaking representatives of various jobs and professions and provides some results and observations made in the course of practical linguistic research of the subject.

Keywords: color perception, color name, language color association.

Both Russian and foreign linguists emphasize the importance of social factors in the process of language development (V.N. Yartseva 2010, H. Bergenholtz, B. Schaeder 1979 etc.). Social aspects produce the change in status of languages in the world as well as intralingual changes under the influence of transformational processes [1] (D. Crystal 2003). In this respect, studies of professional language peculiarities assist in understanding the effects of social factors, as professional activity allows not only fulfilling one’s potential, but also generates professional language peculiarities and forms a unique world view affected by one’s occupation. Among the studies devoted to this topic one can name numerous papers on special aspects of professional language of lawyers (N.V. Shevchenko 1983, G.V. Kubitz 2005), health care specialists (V.M. Toburokova 1992), businessmen (T.A. Milekhina 2000), scientists (E.I. Golovanova 2010), politicians (T.B. Sokolovskaya 2002), public officers (M.N. Panova 2004), military (O.A. Zakharchuk 2007), TV anchors (G.N. Bespamyatnova 1994, M.A. Kancher 2002) and other professionals.

One of the aspects helping the researchers understand the peculiarities of professional linguistic view of the world, as well as speech behavior of an individual observed within one’s professional field is color perception and color naming. For example, in her works devoted to specifics of denoting color in professional speech V. M. Toburokova analyzes some associations with color observed in various professions. The linguist used 14 basic Russian color names and noted that representatives of the same professional field had more or less similar color associations [2].

This article presents some results and observations made during practical linguistic research of English speaking representatives of various jobs and professions, held in August 2013 in Illinois and Wisconsin, USA. We used 11 English basic color names and offered 40 participants to give their associations to the color names enlisted in the questionnaire. Our respondents featured 14 health care professionals, 6 accountants and finance specialists, 6 hair stylists, 5 car salesmen, 3 estheticians, 2 nail technicians, 2 clothes shop assistants, and 1 cake designer. The participants were questioned at work, so they were encouraged to provide both general and professional associations with colors.

Here we provide some results of our practical research, namely, observations for similarities and peculiarities of associations with red color, which were made during our analysis of surveys. Generally, all provided associations with red color may be classified in the following groups the number of responses is given in brackets):

  • associations with events and situations (fire - 12, code - 2, losing money - 2, emergency - 1, St. Valentine’s - 1, winter - 1, non-profit - 1, red tape - 1, reorder - 1);
  • associations with material objects (stop sign – 4, pen - 3, car - 3, corvette - 1, fire truck - 1, shed - 1, car insurance - 1);
  • associations with food and plants (lobster - 1, tomatoes - 1, roses - 1, Red Velvet cake - 1);
  • associations with human body parts and systems (blood – 5, hair - 3, lips - 1, nails - 1);
  • associations with cosmetic products (lipstick - 3, nail polish – 3, hair dye - 1);
  • associations with clothing (dress - 1, shoes - 1);
  • associations with emotions and sensations (hot - 2, vibrant - 2, loud - 1, bad - 1, good luck - 1, passion - 1, failure - 1);
  • associations with personalities, real or imaginative (Santa Claus, devil, Red Hot Chili Peppers, badgers (sports team) - 1).

Moreover, each association can be classified either as common (similar for all respondents), professionally-oriented (peculiar for the representatives of each professional field) and individual (peculiar for one respondent). Any of these associations can be international (common for a number of languages) or particular for the speakers of a language, English in our case.

Speaking about common associations, the color name red was most often associated with the following: fire (12 responses), blood (5), stop sign (4). Other common associations included roses, car, lips, tomatoes etc. Such associations seem quite common, however, whether they are international, for now remains a question, for it requires further research.

Individual associations included such wordings as St.Valentine’s, Santa Claus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, badgers, winter, lobster, Red Velvet cake, loud, devil, corvette, etc. Some of them are very peculiar (e.g. loud, corvette, cake) and might be explained by personal experience. Others are culturally oriented, such as St. Valentine’s [Day] (romantic holiday popular in the USA, with red color used for cards, presents and decorations), Santa Claus (known for wearing red outfit) and winter (red is a common color for Christmas decorations), Red Hot Chili Peppers (name of an American rock band), lobster (Red Lobster is the name of a chain of American restaurants), badgers (the Wisconsin Badgers are the athletic teams representing the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with official colors of Cardinal Red and White).

Professionally-oriented associations are peculiar for each professional field. Most health care professionals associated red color with fire and fire emergency code (10), blood (3). It is interesting to note that emergency situation codes are denoted with various colors, and Code Red denotes fire.

Naturally, professionally-oriented associations with color of hair and hair dye (4), nail polish (2), and vibrant [color] (2) were characteristic to hair stylists and nail technicians.

Associations of car salesmen were either common or individual for the most part and included hot (2), stop [sign] (2 for this group), and red pen/redline color (2). However, surveys provided by car salesmen contained interesting comments, such as “Do not use red pen to show customer’s payments [for car loan]” and “Red means higher car insurance (what customers think)”, which illustrates an importance of red color used in finance documents.

Professionally-oriented responses of finance specialists (accountants, tax accountants, finance analysts) can be characterized as negative, as they feature as wording as bad, unprofitable, losing money, failure. This is explained by the rule of all finance professionals to mark any money loss and non-profit with red ink in accounts.

Thus, our study allowed us to reveal some peculiarities of color perception and use of color names in the English language. Some of them might be international (which is to be determined further), some are explained by language culture of respondents, and others, which is most important, by their occupation.