The last decade has witnessed an interest in inheritance hierarchies for the representation of linguistic knowledge. An obvious application is to historical reconstruction of a language family, but this is largely unexplored territory. We demonstrate the merits of such an approach with a default inheritance treatment of the colour terms of Slavonic: Slavonic because it is uncontroversially a genetic unit, and colour terms both because of their universality and because of the tight constraints on a language's colour term inventory (Berlin & Kay 1969, and subsequent work). In section I we discuss the colour terms of Slavonic and introduce Berlin and Kay's typology and the notion of basic colour term. Section 2 describes our methodology and in section 3 we show how it is applied to Slavonic. The main results are discussed in section 4.

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