virus: Colours (splitting the spectrum)

=?iso-8859-1?Q?Andreas_Engstr=F6m?= (
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 14:15:01 +0200

I think an interesting side-note is the way different = cultures split the spectrum in their languages. Words for colour = aren't always readily translated between languages. For instance, in = Gaelic, the word "gorm"

means "blue-green, azure" which is meant = just as specific as the english 

"green". The concept just isn't = "centered" on the same spot in the spectrum.
"Liath" means "lightblue-gray", = but not totally grey, which is "glas".
"Ruadh" means "reddish brown", = which is considered a colour in itself.

means "red", but only the light red or = orange part of what english-speaking people usually mean by "red". I could go = on, but I think you get the point.

Excuses for bad translation to possible native = speakers of G=E0idhlig among the
readers of this list. Tha mi aig m'ionnsach=E0dh, = ach tha m'Gh=E0idlig gl=E8 bheag.

I also read somewhere that certain jungle-living = people may have ten or more distinct "green" colors that they readily = distinguish between and consider quite
different, while we = probably would call them all "green" and be unable to at = all
see the difference between some of them.

But nevertheless, most western languages mean the = same thing by their color-words.
Swedish and english, for instance, seem to center = around about the same areas of
the spectrum. It would be interesting if anyone had = any information on:

When the "western" languages first started = to conform in this way, or if all initially were similar and some started to differ, = when that happened and why. Were
there larger differences in medieval times, for = instance?

Do other (asian, african, polynesian) language groups = conform or differ in this

Is there any proof for some built-in preference in = our brains to make distinctions
between separate colours at specific (as it seems, = rather arbitrary) wavelengths

Any cognitive linguists out there?

-Andreas Engstr=F6m
(Great Randomness)