Colour nomenclatures across African languages: A study review with a focus on Hausa and Swahili

  • Tatjana Chirichella independent researcher


This review article aims to provide an overview of the works published in the last decades on colour terminology and categorisation in some African languages[1], and Hausa and Swahili in particular. It gives information about different African languages (Ndebele, Setswana, Xhosa, Chichewa, Egyptian-Coptic, Himba and Chakali), then it traces the main works covering the area of Hausa and Swahili language, from the earliest papers until now. Even though these languages have a rich tradition of studies, the amount of works devoted to colour naming is fairly limited. The theoretical approaches of the studies that have appeared in the last few decades are rather heterogeneous, and include perspectives from lexical semantics, cognitive semantics and sociolinguistics.


[1] These languages are just a small sampling chosen on the availability of studies related only to colour nomenclature and categorization.


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Author Biography

Tatjana Chirichella, independent researcher

Tatjana Chirichella holds a Master degree in “Languages and cultures of Asia and Africa” by the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” She focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, especially on the areas where Hausa and Swahili are spoken.

She is currently working on a PhD project in African linguistics. Tatjana can be contacted at:

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