Colorbet (Color IPA)
The Color alphabet on the base of IPA is worked out by Vitaly Vetash,
the Russian painter and linguist. The first varient of the color alphabet
was done in 1983, on the base of psycholinguistic investigations. The
model is based on the kinship of psychological meaning of sounds and colors.
In the 1970's Kaliningrad University scientific group of A.P.Zhuravlev
had found fixed correspondance between vowels and colors statistically
(most of people feel A as red, loud, open, active). Exploring the use of sounds
in poetry, according this psycholinguistic model, the group had got interesting
results: e.g. when counting the frequency of all the sounds in famous
poems about autumn, these poems turned to be colored in yellow-red tints,
According the system of Goete (which now is used in T.V. transmission),
the whole variety of colors is based on fusion of 3 main rays (red, yellow
and blue), light and shadow. A similar law we can find in phonetics, where
the variety of vowel comes from the combination of the triangle of the main
sounds (A, I, U). Colors of vowels are: A is red, I - blue, U - green (not
yellow, but green, as used on TV). Green is a more fixed tint, than yellow,
and sound is more material, than color.
It's possible to extend the system, including consonants (which was done
by V.Vetash). Vowels, being the most resonant between phonemes, represent
clear colors, and consonants have more complicated formant structure,
representing complex tints of colors. We can find color tints for them
according the place of their formation, connected with their acoustic
characteristics (represented in IPA table). So the colors of consonants
can be considered as derivative from vowels, close to them:
- Laryngeal and back A (red) and O (yellow) give their tints to guttural,
velar and uvular (G, K, H etc.), which have colors from ochre to brown.
- Front (deep blue) I and more closed (daffodil-green) E give color to point
and dorsal dental sounds (S, Z, T, D etc.), which have blue-green and grey tints.
- According labial deep-green U, labial (B, P, V, F etc.) have tints from warm-green to emerald.
According the psycholinguistic investigations of Zhuravlev, one can give
to non sonorous consonants darker colors than to sonorous ones, voiced ones have
brighter colors than voiceless ones, and fricatives are more colored than plosives.
That is, brightness depends on sonority: from rich colors (of sonants) to dry
tints (of voiceless plosive sounds). Sonorous consonants, having more clear
colors, are more close to vowels (R is ruby-colored, and burr R is orange;
velar L is yellow-white and palatal L is white-rosy. Nasal vowels: mat-green M,
mat-beige N, light-violet Y, dark-yellow W).
Below the color scheme according the table IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
is represented. It shows that tints of kindred sounds are close. However, plain (flat)
reproduction of sounds doesn't reflet the character of sounds exactly, because in the
strict way one has to reproduce the texture also. Thus, colors of vowels must have
additional luminescence, and consonants produce material sensations. For example,
sibilants (S, Z, TS) could be reflected by metallic surface, and gutturals coinside
with shaggy (wooden or board) surface. A dim, lackered surface fits for resonant
sounds (L,M,N etc.).
For word reproduction on the base of the color-alphabet, it wouldn’t be right
to alternate colors of sounds in the equal proportions. The appropriate model could
be like this:
- Width of colors of vowels must be twice more than consonants.
- The first sound of word is more important, i.e. a consonant is twice, and a vowel is three times wider than ordinary consonant.
- Stressed vowel is 1,5 times wider than ordinary, and reduced is twice narrower than ordinary (that is equal to the ordinary consonant).
- A rare or long consonant (e.g. f, ssh’ in Russian) must be also 1.5 times wider than ordinary.
- For Russian language: soft consonants must be represented darker.
More information about the Colorbet
If you have any questions about the Colorbet, you can contact Max at:
Also by Vitaly Vetash
Other phonetic/universal scripts