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28 December 2011

Seeing and naming color

Robert Kosara wrote a  post on EagerEyes not long ago about the interaction/interface between color and language.  More specifically, "While color is a purely visual phenomenon, the way we see color is not only a matter of our visual systems. It is well known that we are faster in telling colors apart that have different names, but do the names determine the colors or the colors the names? Recent work shows that language has a stronger influence than previously thought."

He reviews research and litterature on this subject, including " Russian blues reveal effects of language on color discrimination".

This BBC video is also embedded in the post.

I'm posting this here, because our Middle Primary Class is investigating poetry in a unit of inquiry titled "The Eye and Voice of the Poet".  That means they're thinking about language, and choosing words, and enlarging their vocabulary.  If they were to consider poems about colors, would it matter what language the poem had been written in originally?  How would one translate a Russian poem about shades of blue into English, which might not have those words? Or a Japanese poem about willows into English without words for shades of green?

From http://thedoghousediaries.com/1406 Shared under CC: A N-C S license.
I urge you to click through and read the whole blog post on EagerEyes.

I investigated this a little further and found a fascinating page on Wikipedia:
"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, while there are a handful of languages that do not distinguish blue from black but have a separate term for green.[1] Also, some languages treat light (often greenish) blue and dark blue as separate colors, rather than different variations of blue, while English does not." (Read the rest of this interesting article.)

You might want to explore the  user-named colors on this web site, ColourLovers.

I'll leave you with Ludwig von Drake -

Read more about this song at Wikipedia.