The paper studies the problem of color designation, which is characterized by both universal and unique features determined by the cultural and ethnic heritage of the carrier nation. The authors study the specifics of color designation for individual objects of animated and inanimate nature, represented in riddles within the three linguistic cultures – Russian, Khanty and Mansi. The study intends to reveal general ethnocultural regularities in the functioning of color terms in the folklore on the basis of semantic and cognitive analysis, experimental study, as well as comparing the specifics of color semantics in these languages, and in Russian. Interlanguage (Russian – Khanty – Mansi) comparison of the content aspect of the words for color terms shows universality of many processes in the studied languages alongside with a different degree of their actualization, and an unequal set of lexical color units, which is due to ethnic, social and cultural factors (‘
Keywords: Color designationcoloronymsKhantyMansiriddles
Since ancient times the ability to distinguish colors has been one of the key elements of perception of the outer world. In modern science, the problem of color perception appears to be the subject of many interdisciplinary studies. Color is associated with the philosophical, aesthetic, cultural and historical experience of understanding the world and is a special subject of linguistic studies. Color designation problems are addressed in the works by Berlin & Kay (1969); Jackendoff (2010); Kay et al. (2009); MacLaury (1992); Paulsen et al. (2016); Sutrop (2016); Uusküla & Bimler (2016); Uusküla et al. (2012); Wierzbicka (2006). In Russian linguistics, the works by Vasilevich et al. (2008), Koshkareva et al. (2017) Kulpina (2001), Ufimtseva (2006), Frumkina (2003) are of special scientific interest. Despite the ever increasing attention to this topic, the problem of comparability of color texts, in particular, the Khanty / Mansi and Russian languages, remains underinvestigated.
At present, modern linguistics shows a great interest in the comparative analysis of languages, an anthropocentric paradigm is being formed, the language is considered not only within the framework of its communicative-cognitive function, but as a kind of cultural code for individual linguocultural communities. The relevance of this paper is determined, on the one hand, by the growing interest in national designations of color in different languages, on the other hand, by insufficient knowledge of color categories in Khanty and Mansi, in the languages that are at risk of being lost today. Thus, the research opens up new opportunities for maintaining and developing the languages and cultures.
By comparing languages of different structures on the example of the Ob-Ugric languages and the Russian language, we can elicit the deepest and most complex human relationships and study various aspects of their life, determine general and specific features in linguistic worldviews, thus revealing cognitive and pragmatic factors of how these languages function.
Diverse folklore genres contain a lot of words that convey color, with rich semantics and wide co-occurrence. In this paper, we look into the color aspect of riddles, a genre that has preserved both the now familiar and archaicized color designations. The riddle is an integral element of the culture of many peoples and, along with proverbs, sayings, parables, is included as one of the main components in the paremiological foundation of the language, expressing the people's life experience in the form of short cliched sayings. In a more figurative and transparent way, riddle coloronyms characterize the depth of human relationships with the outer reality and are a constituent element of the linguistic worldview.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this paper is to perform a comparative analysis of the color designation semantics in the Khanty, Mansi, and Russian languages based on riddles material.
The data under study were riddles extracted from different riddle books written in the Khanty and Mansi languages and translated into Russian. With the method of continuous sampling the authors revealed 116 riddles (59 in Khanty, 57 in Mansi), which were then grouped and analyzed according to color by means of semantic and culturological approaches.
Upon the experiment, in Khanty and Mansi riddles, three basic colors predominate – black, white, and red (Figure
The color name — ‘black’
In Russian riddles, the color ‘black’ is used to convey images of smoke, soot, dark-colored metals, and the color of certain animals and vegetation:
In Russian riddles, an ancient co-occurrence of the black color with the word ‘bear’ remained: little Ivan, where have you been? / In Tula. / What have you seen? / A bishop / What did he have on? / A black fur coat and a ring on the lip (a bear) (Sadovnikov, 1995). Connection remnants between these words remained in dialects, where the bear is named a ‘black beast’ (Dahl, 1881). The coloronym ‘black’ might have been used to convey dark colors in general, and due to the missing coloronym ‘brown’ at that period time. In modern Russian riddles, the bear is described with the adjective brown: it is brown, shaggy. Guess what, guys; who built a warm house and sleeps in there all winter long? (Sadovnikov, 1995).
In the Khanty language, the color name ‘black’ means
In the riddle collections we studied, the word
In Ob-Ugric riddles, the color ‘black’ is used to convey images of the night, the sky, animal color, clouds, air, birch fungus, some household items:
Despite the fact that the linguistic worldview of the three studied linguistic cultures contains almost identical set of cosmology ‘elements’ – the earth, the sky, the sun, the crescent/moon, stars, still there are variations in their imaginative and coloristic representation. Thus, similar to the Russian language, in which the night is figuratively represented as a black blanket, velvet, a shawl, in the Khanty and Mansi languages, the night is also metaphorically described as a black fabric. In Russian riddles though, the night is a black wolf, and a cat, and a sheep, and a cow, and a bird:
In the Khanty language, the sky is a black pasture with golden deer. In Russian, the sky is an element of the universe of light blue, blue, or black color. It is velvet, bed curtains, a field, sea, a shawl, a carpet, a sieve, a sack, etc. Stars are likened to some small objects of golden color being scattered along the velvet worldwide. And no one can collect and count them. These are peas, grain, charcoals, millet, sheep, cattle, gold, flowers, beads, nails: golden charcoals scattered across the sky; millet spilled on a black shawl; golden nails nailed the sky (Mitrofanova, 1968). In Khanty, a cloud is a woman in black fur coat carrying water, rain. In Russian, the cloud is characterized chiefly not by color, but by a beast or bird flying in the sky, driven by the wind and covering the sun: an eaglet, a bird, geese, dun horses, ash grey rams: an eaglet flies in the blue sky, wings spread, covers the sun (Mitrofanova, 1968).
It is interesting to observe that in some riddles two colors are found in parallel, indicating a contrast between black and white, for example, in Khanty:
The color name — ‘white’
In Russian riddles, the adjective ‘white’ has two meanings: 1) light, shiny (fire, water, the sun, the moon, goods made of light-colored wood, wax and metal): a white cat crawls in the window (sunbeam) (Sadovnikov, 1995; 2) snow color: as white as snow, in favor of everyone (sugar) (Sadovnikov, 1995).
In the Khanty riddles collections, the word ‘
In Mansi, two color names are used for the adjective white:
It should be noted that the moon being one of the main components of the universe has been devoted many riddles in the studied linguistic cultures. The metaphorical comparison of the moon with a white horse, a stallion is of particular interest. Perhaps this is due to the mythological representation of the sky among the Siberian peoples, being the abode of gods, the starry steppe where the nomad camps stretch, with their flocks and pastures. According to the Siberian peoples' myths, every evening the moon-horse is born in the East and begins galloping westward (Kulemzin, 1983). The image of a stallion or a horse may be a metaphor for the moon in the Russian linguistic culture, because it is borrowed from the Turkic peoples in Siberia, therefore it is rare in the collections of Russian riddles.
The crescent in the riddles is a shepherd (if the stars are sheep or cattle), and in Russian it also holds ‘bread’ images (a hunk of bread, a calach, a pie, a round loaf, a curd tart with cottage cheese). We can assume that an external similarity in shape and color is the reason for metaphorical transfer in this case. There are other similarities in the riddles about the crescent: the crescent – a bull, a stallion, an ash-grey horse, a cauldron, a trough, a chock, a plate, a stone.
The color name — ‘red’
According to modern research, the Russian color designation adjectives ‘red’ and ‘black’ are etymologically related words that root back to the Indo-European root -*ker that means ‘burn, blaze, flare, stoke’ (Voevoda, 2012). The object standard that reflects the color meaning is fire as a substance with different color features – red, yellow, blue, black.
Adjectives with the meaning ‘red’ in Khanty ‘
In Russian, fire also has a metaphorical animalistic image with the red color designation: a red cat bites a tree; a red horse lives in the stove, and its name is ...; a scarlet rooster extinguished in water; a red cat walks along a pole (Mitrofanova, 1968). The comparison of fire with a rooster has become colloquial: let the red rooster out means to set on fire.
In Khanty riddles, the adjective red ‘
In Mansi, two color names are used for the adjective ‘red’:
When the birch is peeled its bark, the bark underneath looks ginger red, and this color semantics is quite logical, but the association of the ‘birch’ tree with a man (in yellow clothes on) or a lad in red clothes looks quite odd, because according to informants, the birch is feminine – beautiful divine woman in a burgundy cloth coat (in Khanty). In Russian, the image of the birch tree is more poetic and affectionate: a beauty in a green blouse/small shawl, in a white sundress/shirt, a white-trunk beauty, etc. (Mitrofanova, 1968; Rybnikova, 1932; Sadovnikov, 1995). Perhaps the image of the masculine gender in the Ob-Ugric languages relates to the loss of natural beauty of the tree, when the Northerners remove the bark for their traditional birch crafts, either due to a metaphorical transfer when comparing the birch fungus with a red beard, and the beard is a masculine feature.
In Russian, the colornym ‘red’ is often used to create an image of the sun. In Russian riddles, the sun is a red girl, a whirligig, a golden bobbin, a golden/red apple or ball, a red bun, etc. (Mitrofanova, 1968; Rybnikova, 1932; Sadovnikov, 1995).
In Khanty, the sun is a girl, i.e., it appears primarily as a female image, not of red but of gold color. According to the mythical beliefs of the Siberian peoples, the sun and the moon are born in the sky every day. The nascent sun was especially revered. Khanty people believe that the Sun is a woman, and the Moon is a man, and people are descended from their marriage (Moldanova, 2010).
The color name — ‘golden’
The color name ‘golden’ is the third (behind red and white) frequent in Khanty riddles ‘
In the languages of Ob Ugrians, the colornym ‘golden’ has an evaluative semantics. In these languages, the color term is used to convey images: the horizon (in Khanty – golden birch-bark road); the stars – golden deer; the sunbeam – a woman with golden rings in Mansi; a sacred bear – ‘golden ball’:
The image of the rainbow is particularly noteworthy in both Russian and Ob-Ugric languages. In Khanty riddles, a rainbow – a shoulder-yoke with golden patterns,
In Russian riddles, the color metaphors to describe the rainbow are as follows: red shoulder-yoke, red sword, and colored, multi-colored or seven-color bridge/gate, red shoulder-yokes descended in the river; red shoulder-yoke hangs over the river (Mitrofanova, 1968).
The color name – ‘silver’
In Khanty, the word combination
The color name ‘silver’ in Russian riddles is way too rare than ‘grey’, ‘ash grey, ‘bluish gray’: a beaver – silver-brown, stars – a blue field strewn with silver (Mitrofanova, 1968); the sun – a golden apple rolls on a silver plate (Rybnikova, 1932); the sun and the moon – the golden one goes away, the silver one comes; an icicle – a silver carrot clung deftly to the roof. Thus, in Russian riddles, the coloronym ‘silver’ is used mainly to convey the image of ‘sparkling, glittering’, and therefore occurs when describing icicles, stars, and rarely the moon.
The color name – ‘green’
The coloronym ‘green’ is used in Russian riddles with the common meaning ‘color of grass or vegetation’:
In Khanty, the word ‘
The coloronym ‘green’ in the form of the word
The color name – ‘blue’
The coloronym ‘blue’ in Russian riddles has preserved both ancient meanings – ‘glittering’, ‘sparkling’, e.g. a barn on the street, a chest in the barn, a blue cloth in the chest, gold in the blue cloth (a hut, a stove, a stoking hole, heat) (Sadovnikov, 1995), and the modern meaning in the form of common epithets for the sea, the sky, clouds, a whale, bells: an eaglet flies across the blue sky with her wings spread, covered the sun (a cloud) (Sadovnikov, 1995), etc.
The blue color is quite rare in riddles and is mainly used when describing the sky: a blue sheet covers the whole world (the sky), a blue tent covers the whole world (the sky), etc. Russian riddles keep an ancient co-oссurence of the coloronym ‘blue’ to refer to grey as an animal color i.e. mice and rats: a blue cow, dislike houses, not purchased at the market (a rat) (Sadovnikov, 1995); a blue horse, guided to the market – will not be sold (a mouse) (Sadovnikov, 1995).
The coloronyms ‘blue’ and ‘light blue’ in Ob-Ugric riddles are completely absent, which may be due to living conditions of these ethnic groups. Perhaps due to long-term darkness and foul weather trees do not acquire rich green color in the riddles and the folklore of these peoples that is typical of most cultures, and as a result, Khanty and Mansi native speakers are more likely to call the tree and forest dark than green.
The color name – ‘yellow’
In Khanty, the adjective yellow is translated as
According to the dictionaries, in Mansi, the words ‘
In Russian riddles, the coloronym ‘yellow’ is way less rare than ‘golden’ and is found in modern riddles to convey images of fruit, vegetables, certain types of flowers (a mimosa, a camomile, a dandelion, etc.), pancakes, less commonly the moon and plants (a sunflower): it is yellow, round, fragrant and tastes so good (a pancake), yellow citrus fruit (a lemon),
Besides the above color designations, Russian riddles reveal the color terms ‘brown’, ‘orange’, ‘purple’, ‘grey’ and the rest that are completely missing in the Ob-Ugric riddles, except for the color word ‘
In Russian riddles, the color range is more diverse compared to the Ob-Ugric languages. We can notice cases of semantic matching in color designations. For example, ‘a red horse, a red cat, a red rooster’– fire in Russian and ‘a red fox’ in Mansi, ‘a man in a red hat’ – a mushroom, ‘a girl in a red shawl’ – a berry, both in Russian and in Khanty, and Mansi languages. However, when comparing the color designation of the studied languages, numerous semantic divergences are also revealed. The innermost differences in the semantic layer of color designations are observed when analyzing the riddles about the birch, the moon, the bear, etc. So, the birch in Russian – a beautiful girl in a white sundress, a sweater, or a dress, does not have a similar description in the Mansi and Khanty languages. This reminds us that language has a ‘creative nature’ and its own unique path of development, determined by natural, cultural and historical factors. Thus, in traditional Mansi birch bark crafts, the birch is peeled and the trunk looks ‘ginger or red’, and the word ‘trunk’ is grammatically relevant to the masculine gender – ‘a man/a lad’. In addition, the Ob-Ugric languages have their own colors favored by native speakers, with both dominance and ethnic priority features serving to convey ethnic sentiments when it comes to the most intimate feeling for a person/people, i.e. the color becomes idealized, e.g. ‘golden crosses – crane's footprints’ (the crane is a hypostasis of one of Khanty gods), ‘the bear – a golden rattle’ (sacred animal) in Khanty, and a ‘silver rattle’ in Mansi.
In the Khanty and Mansi riddles, the set of color terms with the names of animals is quite limited. White and black (often in contrast) are found in abundance and the coloronym ‘red’ is rare, which translates as ‘red’ if referring to the color of the fox. This relative tenuity of color range largely reflects the set of color terms for the color designation of natural colors in primary animal species. At the same time, the color designation can be detached from the real color of the animal to some extent, it becomes abstracted from it in Mansi riddles as follows: a beaver – a silver bowl, an elk cow – a silver ladder, a bear – a silver chair, etc. This suggests certain differences in the lexicographic tradition of animalistic objects. Color designation of nature demonstrates its connection with an evaluation category — it serves to aestheticize the reality, the emotional evaluation of natural objects.
The comparison of color designations in Russian and in Ob-Ugric riddles allowed finding both semantic and cultural similarities, despite the fact that the images used in the riddles of the studied linguistic cultures are often different, and the common features underlying the metaphor cannot always be elicited by the semantics analysis. Therefore, within the color worldview of any language, one can identify both universal and ethnic-specific features: the world is common for all the peoples, but its empirical cognition is different, the life of each people is based on legends and beliefs prevailing among them, i.e., the specificity of color samples is defined by culturally determined worldview features of the people, which are reflected in a linguistic shape of a riddle.
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27 February 2021
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National interest, national identity, national security, public organizations, linguocultural identity, linguistic worldview
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Khudobina, O. F., & Andreeva, L. A. (2021). Comparative Analysis Of Color Designation Semantics In Khanty, Mansi, And Russian Languages. In I. Savchenko (Ed.), National Interest, National Identity and National Security, vol 102. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 485-495). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.02.02.61