The aim of this corpus-based contrastive study in lexical semantics is to analyse the use of colour words in English and Norwegian contemporary fictional texts. Some of the key questions are: (a.) Are there any differences regarding the distribution of colour words in the two languages, (b.) Do the colour words express the same connotations and symbolic power in English and Norwegian, and (c.) Are there any inconsistencies in the translation of colour words from one language to another?
The material for analysis has been taken from the English Norwegian Parallel Corpus (ENPC), which is a corpus consisting of text excerpts from fictional and non-fictional texts in English and Norwegian. The thesis examines the English basic colour words BLACK, BLUE, GREEN, RED, WHITE and YELLOW and their translations, in addition to the Norwegian BLÅ, GRØNN, GUL, HVIT, RØD and SVART and their translations and inflected forms. The 1438 corpus examples are classified into two main groups: (1.) Figurative Language comprises colour words in similes, synaesthetic metaphors, idioms, fixed expressions and metonymies. The remaining corpus examples are classified into (2.) Semantic Domains, based on the semantic criteria of their collocates. Three of the semantic domains (Space, Behaviour, and Emotional and mental states and experiences) consist entirely of metaphorical instances.
The frequency of colour words in the Norwegian subcorpus is higher (56%) than in the English subcorpus (44%). In fictional texts, colour words are remarkably frequent when used in collocations with concrete reference. By contrast, the three metaphorical semantic domains and the instances representing Figurative Language make up only 138 examples. It is not surprising that the two closely related languages share the basic colour system. Still, the present analysis demonstrates that different colour terms are used to refer to universal concepts such as the sun, the sky, love and hate. Although metaphors and other figures of speech are not particularly common, the thesis concludes that colour words nonetheless convey figurative meanings. Some active, unconventional metaphors are also identified in the material, such as the Norwegian svarte løgner (black lies), which probably develops from hvite løgner (white lies). The colours BLACK/SVART, WHITE/HVIT and YELLOW/GUL show significant consistencies in their incongruent translations into the adjectives mørk/dark, blek/pale and gyllen/golden in several semantic domains. Incidentally, the results of the analysis may have been influenced by the translator s idiolect or the fact that the ENPC consists of text fragments alone.