The development of color categories in two languages: a longitudinal study

Debi Roberson, Jules Davidoff, Ian R.L. Davies, Laura R. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study unites investigations into the linguistic relativity of color categories with research on children's category acquisition. Naming, comprehension, and memory for colors were tracked in 2 populations over a 3-year period. Children from a seminomadic equatorial African culture, whose language contains 5 color terms, were compared with a group of English children. Despite differences in visual environment, language, and education, they showed similar patterns of term acquisition. Both groups acquired color vocabulary slowly and with great individual variation. Those knowing no color terms made recognition errors based on perceptual distance, and the influence of naming on memory increased with age. An initial perceptually driven color continuum appears to be progressively organized into sets appropriate to each culture and language. PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-571
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue numbera
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004

Bibliographical note

Roberson, D., Davidoff, J., Davies, I. R. L., & Shapiro, L. R. (2004). The Development of Color Categories in Two Languages: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(4), 554-571.


  • linguistic relativity
  • color categories
  • children
  • category acquisition
  • seminomadic equatorial African culture
  • English children
  • visual environment
  • language
  • education
  • term acquisition


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