Colors in sign language

Human eyes can physically perceive millions of colors, but people don't all perceive or interpret these colours in the same way. The way you see color depends on what language you speak, perhaps in addition to the environment and culture.

Various cultures have different spectrums of color vocabulary. Non-industralized cultures have fewer words for colors than developed countries. Few cultures have as few words as three. Other cultures have just about five colors. In some cultures, green and blue are together as one color.

Like most cultures, ASL gets by with eleven common colors: black, white, yellow, orange, green, red, pink, purple, blue, brown, and gray. Plus silver, gold, and few other colors.

Basic vocabulary of colors

Eleven colors will be introduced for early beginners. Many of these colors can be inflected to express different tones, such as bright, dark, light, bold, etc. which may be introduced later for intermediate and above learners.

You can either watch the video below or open the ASL dictionary in a new tab of the browser and place it side by side with this page. Look up the words in the alphabetical order (or your preferred order):

BLUE, YELLOW, RED, ORANGE, GREEN, PURPLE, PINK, BLACK, BROWN, WHITE, GRAY.

Bluish-green or greenish-blue is added on purpose...

Exercises: identifying colors

Practice your receptive skills. The signer will point to an object and ask you what color it is. Try to sign the color yourself. Open the link to reveal an answer.

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Exercise: mixing the colors

Introduce the new word: MIX.

Do you love mixing colors in painting? This is not an art lesson. Hence, here is the color mix chart for your reference.

color mix reference

Watch the video, "What color is it when two colors are mixed" or "COLOR | COLOR MIX WHAT COLOR\/". Then try your answer in ASL. Practice signing the colors. Then check your answer by opening the link to reveal its answer.

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That's all for now. Feeling such colorful today, eh?

Reference

This article "Do You See What I see?" (2017) by Nicola Jones in "Sapens: anthropology magazine" features some interesting information about color vocabulary in some cultures: https://www.sapiens.org/language/color-perception/

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Where there are terms in art and design, there are colors.

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