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Languages, words for colours, blue/green

 Language Learning Forum : Philological Room Post Reply
20 messages over 3 pages: 1 2
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*

 Message 17 of 20
23 May 2010 at 9:19am | IP Logged 
Physically speaking, colors can be pretty vague too. If I were to look at the green plants in front of my apartment, I would be seeing a continuous spectra representing that plant's "green," but a digital camera would capture that same color as a discrete combination of 3 wavelengths. The two could not be more physically different, but it turns out that our eyes and our brain are unable to distinguish the two.

It is in fact entirely arbitrary to say that one color (say, cyan) is a shade of another (blue), but another (green) is not.
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Senior Member
United States
Joined 6164 days ago

126 posts - 175 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: Spanish, Polish, Latin, French

 Message 18 of 20
23 May 2010 at 9:21am | IP Logged 
Captain Haddock wrote:
I like how when Japanese children draw the sun, it is always red. In Canada and presumably other Anglo-Saxon countries, the sun will always be yellow.

Russian language uses the word "красный" (red) as an antiquated way of referring to beauty:
'Красный 'молодец (stately/handsome young man)
'Красна/я 'девица (beautiful young girl)
'Красно/е 'солонышко (beautiful Sun)

Hence, as a small child I knew I could draw the Sun using a yellow, an orange or a red color. Yet I also remember in preschool asking my parents why do we draw it this way, if the Sun seems white when you look at it. The answer was, that no one would see a white pencil on the white paper, so I remember choosing yellow more frequently, as it was closer to white. On the other hand the sunset sun was frequently red. :)

BartoG wrote:
Stanford Magazine wrote:

Her hypothesis was that Russians thus pay closer attention to shades of blue than English speakers, who lump many more shades under one name and use more vague distinctions. The experiment confirmed her hypothesis. Russian speakers could distinguish between hues of blue faster if they were called by different names in Russian. English speakers showed no increased sensitivity for the same colors. This suggests, says Boroditsky, that Russian speakers have a "psychologically active perceptual boundary where English speakers do not."

This is very interesting, and makes sense, since in Russian we frequently argue whether something is "голубое" or "скорее голубое" rather than "синее", so we are forced to consider that, while for the English language speakers that kind of a discussion would be pointless except perhaps in the print production or graphic design worlds :).

BartoG wrote:
Stanford Magazine wrote:
[…] Boroditsky compared the ability of English speakers and Russian speakers to distinguish between shades of blue. She picked those languages because Russian does not have a single word for blue that covers all shades of what English speakers would call blue; rather, it has classifications for lighter blues and darker blues as different as the English words yellow and orange.

I disagree with the author of that article on their comparison of the "синий"/"голубой" distinction to that of yellow and orange. I think a much more appropriate comparison is with that of red / pink. At least in Russian we add "white" + "red" and get a "pink", and in exactly the same manner we add "white" + blue ("синий") and get a "cyan" ("голубой"). [One has to add "red" + "yellow" to get an "orange".]

TixhiiDon wrote:
Incidentally, goluboi is also the Russian word for "gay" so be careful how you use it!

Indeed the word "голубой" can be used as a euphemism for a male homosexual person. However, it cannot be used to form derivative word forms, so an English phrase "this is so gay!" cannot be expressed in Russian using the word "голубой". This way, since the colloquial usage of "голубой" as "gay" is limited (i.e. you can only make a direct statement "so and so is gay (голубой)", it'll be hard to be misunderstood, unless you are talking about a Marsian with blue skin. ;)
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Mountain Goat
Joined 4941 days ago

10 posts - 15 votes
Speaks: Danish*, English
Studies: Pashto
Studies: Urdu

 Message 19 of 20
23 May 2010 at 9:18pm | IP Logged 
In Pashto there's also a single word for green and blue; شين (shin). Interesting that it's the case in several languages. I don't even think the colors are that alike, except in the darker shades.

(a seperate word for blue in Pashto is نيلی (niley) btw)
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Monox D. I-Fly
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Speaks: Indonesian*

 Message 20 of 20
22 December 2015 at 5:51pm | IP Logged 
DaisyMaisy wrote:

English has terms like "sky blue", "snow white", "blood red", etc. I expect other languages have descriptive terms like these, though I don't know of any offhand.

Well, Indonesian has terms equivalent with "faded green" (lime), "grass green" (light green), "leaf green" (green), and "feces green" (olive, I guess) as well as "brick red" (maroon), "bloody red" (crimson), and "rose apple red" (pink). Oh, and "sky purple" for violet.

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