Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Moten Words for the Day

no|se /no̞t͡se̞/, noun: “brightness; also as adj. bright”

leksod /le̞kso̞d/, noun: “darkness; also as adj. dark”

Here again, two words that are best explained together.

Like many other abstract words, no|se and leksod can be used as adjectives as well as nouns. They are used strictly to refer to the physical phenomena of brightness and darkness, not for the metaphorical extensions that their English counterparts have.

More interestingly though, they are also used to refer to colours. And I don’t mean as some kind of modifier (as in English “bright/dark red”), but as basic colour terms. What’s happening here is that Moten, unlike most, if not all, the languages you are probably familiar with, lacks basic words referring to specific colours, i.e. words like red, blue, green or yellow. Instead, it uses no|se and leksod to cover the entire spectrum.

Besides indicating brightness, no|se refers to colours usually identified as “light” (i.e. white or yellow) or “warm” (like orange and red). In the same way, leksod refers not only to darkness, but also to “dark” colours (like black and brown) or “cold” colours (like blue and green). Interestingly, the separation by hue is almost absolute: even light blue (as in the colour of a cloudless afternoon sky) will be called leksod in Moten, despite people probably finding a cloudless afternoon sky rather bright!

But unless you live a very monochrome life, you’ll probably have to be able to distinguish more than two colours (for instance two objects whose only distinguishing features are their respectively blue and green colours), and to name them accordingly. How do Moten speakers do that? That’s what I will explain in the next Word for the Day post :).


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