Colour as a semiotic mode: notes for a grammar of colour

Sage Publications Ltd.
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Visual Communication, 2002, 1 (3), pp. 343 - 369
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This article presents a brief review of several approaches of 'grammar', as the basis for a discussion of culturally produced regularities in the uses of colour; that is, the possibility of extending the use of 'grammar' to colour as a communicational resource. Colour is discussed as a semiotic resource - a mode, which, like other modes, is multifunctional in its uses in the culturally located making of signs. The authors make some use of the Jakobson/Halle theory of 'distinctive features', highlighting as signifier-resources those of differentiation, saturation, purity, modulation, value and hue. These are treated as features of a grammar of colour rather than as features of colour itself. The article demonstrates its theoretical points through the analysis of several examples and links notions of 'colour schemes' and 'colour harmony' into the social and cultural concept of grammar in the more traditional sense.
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