Patterns behind color names around the world

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Berlin and Kay did a study in 1969 comparing the ways people of different native languages recognized and categorized colors. Some, like russian had words for as many as 12 color categories, while some had as few as 4. They came up with the hypothesis that they are derived in a certain order across languages, Black and white, red, green/yellow, blue, brown, then the rest. There are criticisms in this study as the sample size was small and all participants, while native speakers of a variety of languages, were bilingual english speakers. Sometimes words for color categories can come as a noun resembling the color, eg tree sap-like, ocean like. We also do this in english to describe more specific colors like the entire pantone spectrum; seafoam green, lava orange, blood red. Upon review the same researchers re-checked their methodology with more languages including unwritten ones, and a larger sample size.

Posted by Andrew Hutchens on June 29, 2018

Language Shift;
Communities of Practice;
Linguistic Relativity

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