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Blue-green across cultures!

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Hashimi
Senior Member
Oman
Joined 6105 days ago

362 posts - 529 votes 
Speaks: Arabic (Written)*
Studies: English, Japanese

 
 Message 1 of 17
03 June 2010 at 4:49pm | IP Logged 

Do you distinguish blue from green in your language?

The English language makes a distinction between blue and green, but some languages do
not. Of these, quite a number, mostly in Africa, do not distinguish blue from black
either.

Also, some languages (like Russian*) treat light blue and dark blue as separate colors,
rather than different variations of blue, while English does not.

According to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay's 1969 study Basic Color Terms: Their
Universality and Evolution, distinct terms for brown, purple, pink, orange and grey
will not emerge in a language until the language has made a distinction between
green and blue.


Many languages do not have separate terms for blue and green, instead using a cover
term for both (when the issue is discussed in linguistics, this cover term is sometimes
called grue in English).

For example, in Vietnamese both tree leaves and the sky are xanh.

In the Thai language, khiaw means green except when referring to the sky or the sea,
when it means blue.

The Korean word pureuda can mean either green or blue.

Chinese has a word, qīng, that can refer to both, though it also has separate words for
blue and green.

In Japanese, the word for blue ao is often used for colors that English speakers would
refer to as green, such as the color of a traffic signal meaning "go", or the color of
unripe fruit such as bananas.

Modern Japanese has a separate word for green (midori) but ancient Japanese did not
have this distinction: the word midori only came into use in the Heian period, and at
that time (and for a long time thereafter) midori was still considered a shade of ao.
The word ao (blue) is still used to describe vegetables or green fruits like green
apples. However, most other objects - a green car, a green sweater, and so forth - will
generally be called midori.

In Arabic the word for blue is generally azraq. The Arabic word for green is akhdar.
However, the color of the sky is sometimes referred to as "green" in Classical Arabic
poetry, in which al-khadraa, the feminine form of akhdar, literally 'the green one', is
an epithet for the sky.

In Sudan, it is considered polite not to use the word for black, aswad, to refer to
people's skin color. Instead, darker-skinned Arabs are called akhdar 'green', while
black Arabs and Africans are called azraq 'blue'.


What about Western languages?

I heard that, historically, there was no distinction between these colors also in
Welsh, Irish, Norweigan, and Swedish. Is it true?


For more info:

http://wals.info/feature/134

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/columns/0002/pdf/ppp032.pdf


* In Russian there is no single word that covers all the colors that English speakers
call "blue." Russian makes an obligatory distinction between light blue (goluboy) and
dark blue (siniy). Does this distinction mean that siniy blues look more different from
goluboy blues to Russian speakers? Indeed, the data say yes. Russian speakers are
quicker to distinguish two shades of blue that are called by the different names in
Russian (i.e., one being siniy and the other being goluboy) than if the two fall into
the same category.

7 persons have voted this message useful



John Smith
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
Australia
Joined 5888 days ago

396 posts - 542 votes 
Speaks: English*, Czech*, Spanish
Studies: German

 
 Message 2 of 17
03 June 2010 at 5:07pm | IP Logged 
^^ Interesting.

I wonder how people who speak some of the languages you mentioned perceive the world. Is the world they see a different color to our one? When they look at a blue car standing next to a green car do they see two different colored cars??? Interesting stuff.
1 person has voted this message useful



Derian
Triglot
Senior Member
PolandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 5154 days ago

227 posts - 464 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, English, German
Studies: Spanish, Russian, Czech, French, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 3 of 17
03 June 2010 at 5:39pm | IP Logged 
Intriguing!

Perhaps, in the languages in which they don't distinguish blue from green, they treat CYAN as the basic colour, from which blue and green branch out.

Hashimi wrote:
Also, some languages (like Russian*) treat light blue and dark blue as separate colors, rather than different variations of blue, while English does not.

It's similar in Polish. But the distinction in Polish is threefold:
błękitny - light blue
niebieski - blue
granatowy - dark blue

[However, 'błękitny' and 'niebieski' can often be used to describe the same colour (blue).]

Quote:
Is the world they see a different color to our one?

Of course not!
English distinguishes between fingers, thumbs and toes, whereas in Polish we've got one word for them all ('palec'). It obviously doesn't mean that a finger and a toe look the same to us, does it?
It's all a matter of neccesity and relevance.

Edited by Derian on 03 June 2010 at 6:11pm

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ManicGenius
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5327 days ago

288 posts - 420 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Esperanto, French, Japanese

 
 Message 4 of 17
03 June 2010 at 5:51pm | IP Logged 
Everyone experiences the world differently visually. People see things differently basically because of the minor variations in the arrangement and formation of the rods and cones in your eye.

You learn as a child which color is which from your parents generally, but even then these are just labels. People see all the same colors, just differently from everyone else, unless they possess a genetic predisposition to interpret colors extremely different or with difficulty (colorblindness).

To explain this easily, people with color blindness will oftentimes go a very long time not knowing they are colorblind, they will assume what they see is what everyone else sees.

I forgot what it was but they gave an example for full color sighted people of how colorblindness causes people to interpret red/green or something. They look incredibly similar, but slightly slightly different.

Personally, I just think that English people got bored and started making up random names for slight variation in color.

Seriously. Chartreuse? WTF?
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Hashimi
Senior Member
Oman
Joined 6105 days ago

362 posts - 529 votes 
Speaks: Arabic (Written)*
Studies: English, Japanese

 
 Message 5 of 17
03 June 2010 at 6:05pm | IP Logged 

Well, I think they see the difference, unless they have some color blindness or
deficiency.

E.g. my grandmother has an orange hand-held fan, and she used to call it the yellow
fan. When I say to her: "hey, granny, it's orange not yellow!", she does not
understand, because in her dialect there is no word for the orange color. In modern
Arabic, we use a term derived from the orange fruit, like in English.

But when I show her two fans, same in shape, but the other one is exactly yellow, she
see the difference, and describe the orange one as "more yellow."!


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Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 5180 days ago

4143 posts - 8864 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 6 of 17
03 June 2010 at 7:22pm | IP Logged 
At the risk of offending every single male on the forum, I feel tempted to point out, that a significant number of men perceive anything from pink to orange to purple as "red". And I am not speaking about the colour blind...
3 persons have voted this message useful



Derian
Triglot
Senior Member
PolandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 5154 days ago

227 posts - 464 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, English, German
Studies: Spanish, Russian, Czech, French, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 7 of 17
03 June 2010 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
At the risk of offending every single male on the forum, I feel tempted to point out, that a significant number of men perceive anything from pink to orange to purple as "red".

No, we don't perceive it all as red. We call it all red - out of convenience, because to differentiate between them is quite redundant :)

Edited by Derian on 03 June 2010 at 7:27pm

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ManicGenius
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5327 days ago

288 posts - 420 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Esperanto, French, Japanese

 
 Message 8 of 17
03 June 2010 at 7:34pm | IP Logged 
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
At the risk of offending every single male on the forum, I feel tempted to point out, that a significant number of men perceive anything from pink to orange to purple as "red". And I am not speaking about the colour blind...


It's called tetrachromacy. Many women have it. Actually, only women have it. Essentially you have one extra color receptor than the standard 3. There are tests for tetrochromacy, but RGB values of monitors and CMYK printing standards are unable to produce it, so typically you have to get one specially made.

And fun fact, its usually the red and orange colors that tetrochromatic women see as having a vast array of other colors within. You are possibly tetrochromatic and notice these colors, and are actually in the minority of women who see these.

No male will ever see this.


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