Categorical formation of Mandarin color terms at different luminance levels

T. J. Hsieh, I-Ping Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study presents the categorical formation of a set of Mandarin color terms on the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) 1931 chromaticity diagram across six luminance levels. This article conducted a study that employed 44 native Mandarin speakers to perform a force-choice sorting task. The Mandarin color terms for sorting were determined by a free-recall pretest and are consistent with basic color terms proposed by Berlin and Kay. The square-sampled stimuli were generated by evenly sweeping the x-y diagram of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 170 cd/m 2 planes. The categorical sorting results and response time (RT) measurements suggest that: (1) the concepts of green, blue, purple, and gray stably exist at most luminance levels. The voting RT for the green, blue, and purple categories is particularly short. (2) Red, orange, yellow, and pink are highly luminance-dependent; these can be identified without difficulty only at some restricted luminance levels. (3) The chromaticity areas designated as orange, partial yellow, red, and pink are recognized as brown when the luminance level decreases. (4) Brown and gray serve as representations of two distinct tints in the low saturation condition. (5) The location of boundaries between blue and green are remarkably different than those in a similar study that employed Japanese speakers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-461
Number of pages13
JournalColor Research and Application
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • CIE1931
  • Mandarin
  • categorical
  • color terms
  • luminance


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