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【Abstract】 All people live in the same material world, and the physical mechanism of perception is pretty much the same in all people. However, different peoples from different countries and with different cultural backgrounds have the different..
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2011-12-13 16:33:22 来源: 作者: 【 】 浏览:546次 评论:0

【Abstract】 All people live in the same material world, and the physical mechanism of perception is pretty much the same in all people. However, different peoples from different countries and with different cultural backgrounds have the different feelings to the same color term. Because of their different geographical position, history, religion, custom, psychology and ways of thinking, the implied meanings of the color words are different. There are bunches of color terms in the vocabularies of different countries. They all have deep cultural connotations, besides their literal denotations. In some important occasions, as the main expression of customs, red and white imply different cultural backgrounds. Through the analysis of symbolic meanings of red and white, this thesis puts an emphasis on the national traits of color terms. Approached from four aspects-- environment, perception, philosophy and religion, the study explores the cultural and historical roots of the differences. The purpose of this thesis is to avoid errors in cross-cultural communications based on a better awareness of cultural differences.
【Key Words】 red; white; connotation; causes; color terms; English and Chinese


【摘 要】 人们生活在同一个物质世界,其感知的生理机制使人们对颜色词的理解也不禁相同。但是,不同国家不同文化背景的人对同种颜色的理解也有所不同。这是因为不同的地理环境,历史背景,宗教信仰,文化风俗,心理以及思维方式使颜色词所蕴涵的意义产生差异。在各种语言词汇里有大量的颜色词,除了表达颜色本意之外,它们有更深刻的文化内涵。在中西方的重大场合里,红白两色作为一种重要的风俗表现形式,深刻体现了两种不同的文化背景,本文通过对红白两色基本象征意义的对比分析,强调了英汉颜色词的民族特性,并从环境、感知、哲学和宗教四个方面探索了造成这种差异的文化历史根源。本文研究是为了更好地了解民族文化差异,避免在跨文化交际中产生失误。
【关键词】 红;白;内涵;原因;颜色词;英汉

1. Introduction
To satisfy our daily necessities, people use a host of color terms to represent colors. For example, it is estimated that there are over three thousand color words in English. Our eyes are able to distinguish seven million different colors, most of which we cannot name. As we know, color is the physical appearance. Although people are in different countries, they also have the same reflections of colors. “According to the famous BK Hypothesis——Berlin and Kay consider that all languages include two to eleven basic colors, which are black, white, red, yellow, green, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, gray.” [1]
However, in addition to what we mentioned above, colors also reflect the features of different culture and society to certain extent. In our daily life, people often realize the colors by optic nerves, and also express their feelings by colors. “Since human beings have the same physical mechanism and optic nervous system, it is no differences in the feelings of colors in theory”[2] : sensory organs such as eyes, ears and nose to sense the environment, and the sensations received by them are routed through our nervous system to our brains, where they are interpreted and recorded. Therefore, the reflections in our minds of the objective world are the same, that is, they refer to things and interpret unit of meanings by means of the same concepts. However, due to the differences of custom, geographical position, history, religion, psychology, some colors have already been the obstructions in the cross-cultural communication. So learning the similarities and differences of color terms in English and Chinese has a great effect on the cross-cultural communication and translation.
For instance, in the traditional Chinese weddings, the bride, who wore red shoes, red dress, and a red veil, sat in red-painted palanquin, greeted by the bridegroom who rode a horse with a big red silk-made flower on the chest. After the ceremony, they would enter into the bridal chamber decorated with red things——red candles, red bed, red quilts, red bedsores, and red pillows. What's more, the gifts sent by the guests were enveloped in red paper packages. These red things not only show the joyful atmosphere, but also suggest that the newly married couple will have a happy life in the future. However, in the western countries, the wedding is called "white wedding", because the bride is dressed in white, wearing white gloves and shoes; the carriage of wedding is driven by white horses, the driver of which wears a white hat; what's more, the invitation cards are written with silver letters. It is so different with Chinese custom. In China, white is used to mean "funeral affairs". So the Chinese are hardly use white in celebrations and happy occasions.
It is natural that English terms of colors may have cultural associations that are not transparent to Chinese learners of English as a foreign language. The following paragraph are meant to focus on the two color terms——red and white, and to help them attain a better understanding.

2. The different connotations of red
2.1 The similarities between red and 红
Red is the earliest color used by peoples in the world. In Chinese, it is the color of fire or blood. In English, as the explanation in Oxford American Dictionary, red means the color of blood or a color approaching this. Therefore, people almost use the color of blood instead of "red". What’s more, in the early period of human history, red was the sun and fire that made life better. Therefore, in both English and Chinese, red and "红" are connected with "dignity"、"love"、"beauty"、"happiness", and so on. In English we find such expressions: “a red letter day” refers to holidays such as Christmas and other special days. Such days are printed in red on calendars, and other days printed in black. “To paint the town red” means to enjoy a lively, boisterous time in public places, often attracting the notice of, or causing some disturbance to, others.
As the representative color of China, Chinese people like "红" best, which is used to be in a positive sense. It may originate from its association by ancient Chinese people with the sun and fire. According to the ancient Chinese legends and mythologies, people had been inclined to think of themselves as the product of the nature, in which they got direct benefits from the warmth of the sun and fire. Therefore, they connected the color of the sun with anything happy, lucky and prosperous. Nowadays, we always see that the Chinese teams are usually dressed in red in international games. What's more, "红" is the most frequent color in celebrations and joyful occasions, which we mentioned in the first part. For example, on New Year's Day and Spring Festival, red lanterns are hung up, red character "福" put up on the wall or door, red paper-cuts attached onto the windows, red antithetical couplets stuck on both sides of the door, and New Year money gifts to the younger generation is wrapped in red packages.
Besides, red and "红" are also connected with solemnity and acceptance, which are embodied in the red color of seals of both government and common people. In English, the phrase "red carpet" has this meaning. “Traditionally, a red carpet is placed on the ground to welcome the visiting leaders of another country. It is a way of honoring the important visitors. So the expression "rolling out the red carpet" describes an especially warm welcome of any kind. You may give someone the royal treatment, even if the person is not a king or queen. A city may "roll out the red carpet" for its baseball team, when the team arrives home after winning a championship. A group of supporters go to the airport to greet the team. The red-carpet welcome includes a lot of cheering by thousands of fans, a parade, music and speeches of praise by local politicians.”[3] In China, this custom can also be dated back to ancient times, when most things in the authorities are painted in red. If the emperors read the memorial to the throne by making red notes, which was called “朱批”, it indicated getting the permission of rulers. Moreover, red is associated with certain emotions in both English and Chinese. In Chinese "脸红" shows embarrassment or shyness, so does it in English "to become red-faced" or "one's face turn red".
Red also stands for revolution in both the western countries and China. “In English, this meaning originated from the red flag and bonnet rouge (French) used in the French Revolution from 1789 to 1794. In 1917, the famous October Revolution in Russia won, and Lenin organized the Red Army.”[4] In China, so is it. Because where revolution is where blood is. Chinese national flag is red which means being dyed red by the blood of the revolutionaries, and red scarf(红领巾) is an angle of it. In the Cultural Revolution, "红" was used politically. Chairman Mao was titled "红太阳" and his works were called "红宝书"; the socialistic country governed by the proletariat was called "红色江山". Moreover, we have "红袖章"、"红色政权"、"红色司令部"、"红小鬼"、"红色歌曲" and so on. Furthermore, at that time, people liked to paint the wall and door red, and wrote the political slogans on the wall. The whole country looked like a red sea. In both English and Chinese, red is associated with communism. Due to some political reasons, its meaning is degraded in some capitalistic countries. It has been a slightly insulting word for someone who has communist or very left wing ideas or opinions, so the western politicians are alert to "red".
The red color is not always associated with something joyful. The positive use of "red" in English is very limited. Instead, it is often used in a negative sense, and connected with "sanguineness", "danger" and "violence" in the minds of native speakers of English. Owing to the influence of Christianity, native speakers of English are not worshippers of the sun and other natural phenomena as the Chinese, because God has been the only Lord for them to worship. “According to Bible, when Adam and Eve, the alleged ancestors of human beings, committed the original sin, God said to Eve:" I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children." The great pain that a woman suffers in giving birth to a child is bleeding freely, and that may be the reason why "red" has the meaning of danger and warning for English-speaking people.”[5] In this sense, "red" is the same as "红".
There are some other expressions with this meaning. For instance:
(1) "Red-light district" refers to a district within a town or city where there are brothels and prostitutes.
(2) "Red Nose Day" is a day on which an appeal is made for research into sudden infant death syndrome, marked by the distribution of plastic red noses to donors.
(3) "Running a business in the red" means running it at a loss.
(4) "Red tape" means the rigid application and observation of rules and regulations in all their minute details with regard for the end they were designed to achieve.
(5) "Red Cross" is an international organization that helps people who are suffering in the war, flood or disease. Where there is a war, there is the Red Cross. No matter where you are, when you see the hospital or the ambulance, you could see the symbol of Red Cross.
(6) In China, we say "血雨腥风"、"血债血还" and so on, which are all connected with violence. So is it in English. In English, there are "blood for blood" and "red-handed". Although we do not see the word "kill" in them, we can imagine the bleeding scenes. There is such an explanation of "red-handed". “To be caught "red-handed" is to be found in an act of killing. The evidence is clear. You are guilty. Word experts say that the expression resulted from an old English law known as the law of the bloody hand. The law said that any man found with a bloody hand was to be considered guilty of killing the king's deer.”[6]
"Red light" and "红灯" in traffic rules are the sign of stopping. We also could see the red alarm on the top of police cars. In the football match, "red card" or "红牌" refers to a player who breaks the rules and will not be allowed to play for the rest of the game. "Red figure"、"red ink"、"be in the red" or "赤字" mean the deficit.
2.2  The differences between red and 红
Because of some historical and other reasons, there are some different expressions between red and “红”. Here is an example: "see red" in English and "见红" in Chinese are different. The former one means to be angry, in which "red" refers to anger. Another example with the approaching meaning is "waving a red flag", which means "doing something that could cause quick anger in other people". The latter means when a woman gives birth to a child, she will bleed, in which "红" refers to blood.”[7]
Besides, there are many expressions with "红" indicating fortune, success and wealth, such as "走红", "红人", and so on. "红人" is often used to refer to a person who is in his superior's good graces. If someone is lucky enough to get great success in his career or other aspects of life, it is often called "红运". Moreover, such as "红利"、"分红"、"红包"、"开门红"、"满堂红", and so on. This meaning is connected with ancient China. In ancient China, "红" is a graceful color, standing for wealth and high position. It is well-known that there is a famous verse saying "朱门酒肉臭, 路有冻死骨", in which "朱门" means the red-painted gates, implying the houses where high officials and nobles lived. In archaic Chinese buildings, columns, rafters, temples and nobles' houses are all painted in red. Thus "朱门" becomes the symbol of wealth and high status. “In addition, nobles, high officials and rich people are dressed in red. In Tang Dynasty, the officials who were superior to the fifth rank were required to wear red court dress. Furthermore, their carts were called "朱轩"、"朱轮".”[8] Therefore, the red dress becomes the synonym of success and power.
According to the legend, the Old Man of the Moon, who is the god of marriage,
has on record in a book the marriage fates of those on earth and attaches betrothed couples with a red cord which will bind them for life. Therefore, later who brings about the union of the lovers is called “红娘”, instead of “the Old Man of the Moon”, such as the maid in the play the Western Chamber written by Guan Hanqing in Yuan Dynasty. "红娘", Cui Yingying's maid, was the go-between of Cui Yingying and Zhang Sheng. Later, "红娘" becomes the synonym of matchmaker. Until now, the word “红娘” also influences the color “红” , which refers to happiness and love between couples. What’s more, in Chinese, there are many words with  "红" referring to beautiful girls, because ancient Chinese girls liked using rouge to dress up. For example, "红颜"、"红装"、"红袖"、"红粉佳人", and so on. In addition, "红" can express psychological states, such as "面色红润". In Beijing opera, red facial makeup implies the virtues of loyalty, honesty, bravery and strong-mindedness, such as the character Guan Yu, and Zhao Kuangyin.


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