Saturday, July 26, 2008

Basic colours in Tanii

Every language has its own way of defining and classifying colours, whose number can vary widely. But every language has got between 2 and 12 terms which are considered 'basic' or 'elementary'.
  • English language has 11 : yellow, green, blue, brown, purple, red, pink, orange, black, white, and grey.
  • Tanii seems to have 8 : yellow (pilan), green (salyi) grue (jiji), red (lanchan), pink (lamu-layu), orange (pyamin/tormin), white (pulu), black (ji) and grey (mubu).
Different variations or shades of the same colour are distinguished for some of them, especially by means of compound words. Thus lanchan-lankho for red or vermillon (lit. 'intense, very red'), lanchan koman for crimson or carmine red (lit. 'dark red'), salyi koman for dark green, pilan-pisan for yellowish, etc. Among other words used for expressing shades of yellow colour are pilan kamo (lit. 'dark yellow', possibly yellow-earth) and pilan-lanku-lamu (meaning unknown)
Below are displayed the various colours and shades in Tanii according to our present knowledge :

  • Mubu is a descriptive colour words, it is primarily used to refer to ashes from fire, but secondarily used to denote ashy colour, or grey. This is a feature shared by many Asian languages such as, for eg., Japanese.
  • Jiji has a meaning that covers both blue and green, depending on the situation. Compare for eg. :

yapun hii jijido => the sky is blue.

anii hii jijido
=> the leaf is green.

anii hii salyido => the leaf is green.

In this context, both the sky and tree leaves are jiji, although Tanii language does have separate terms for blue and green, jiji and salyi. This is also a typical feature of many East and Southeast Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. and, of course languages of the Tani family (Tanii, Adi, Nyishi, Tagin, Miri, Mishing, etc.). Linguists have coined the specific term “grue” (from "blue" and "green"), to describe the range of colours covered by such terms. Thus, jiji would be more accurately referred as "grue" color, not only blue.

Specific colours, or hues, are reserved for animals, such as dorlan (from dor, classifier for quadrupeds and lan, red) which denotes a brown, reddish hue for animal furs, sii talan (apparently a brownish-orange hue for cows), tapu (white, fair color), or tagyo (spotted ?). Human complexions also bear specific names, such as for eg. piikhe for dark complexion. There must be specific colours for certain textiles, dyes, beads... For eg. we don't know the name of this turquoise blue found on some beads which were originally brought from Tibet.

Do you know other color names which are not listed here ? Please help us to collect them all.


KAGO RICHO said...

Very impressed by your hardwork in contribution toward preserving Tanii. ..
We (I mean Hija) use word "tadoh" for yellow and "pilan" for brown. So, there'll be nine colour name :-)

PB said...

Thanks Richo, this is exactly the kind of information we need for a better understanding of Tanii agun and its dialectal variations. Just keep on...Now I wish others will comment this or add their own comment.

NPR said...

@Kago Richo,
Thanks for droping your valuable comment.

I am so surprised to learn that Hija calls yellow as "TADOH". To be frank, I have many frens from Hija but never cared to ask them about the word for yellow. The word "TADOH" must have came from colour of TADOH tasan which is yellow in colour or Tadoh itself is name of colour....bit confused at this moment. We need to verify it.
Anyways,once again thanks.

KAGO RICHO said...

. . :)
if we call Tadoh for yellow and Pilan for brown we'll be richer by one word in Tanii vocabulary. ;)
I don't feel that colour "Tadoh" is modern days generated name of colour.
these are common things of this colour:
EPAH (human excreta)
AEPE (TAPE) APPUH (pumpkin's flower) etc . .
And "Pilan" for PILA (Tapio miin nan pila). Eg sika pila si pilan ramba for dark brown "pila".
Not only hija certain group of people from Diibo-Dutta too call yellow "Tadoh".

yasiyalow said...

As said by KR, I think Tadoh is name of yellow colour and is common to all apatanis. Pilang is used for brownish colour

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NPR said...

@Yasiyalow and KR,
Thanks for ur insight....not a bad idea. Being born as bulla, i hardly leanrt abt people calling pillang (yellow ) as TADOH in neighbouring villages, this was surprise for me. Last but not the least, thanks for your valuable comments!!!

keep visiting!!

Cheers :)

NPR said...

Hi dear!!!
Thanks for your update.
Take care!!!