How Language Shapes Our Perception of Colours

June 25, 2015

Differences in language may shape our experience of seeing colours, creating a unique reality for different language speakers.

 

#English has eleven basic colours, such as red, orange and green. However, #Hanuno, spoken in the #Philippines, has only four basic colours whereas #Pirahã, a language spoken by an #Amazonian tribe, reportedly has no words for colours and instead uses comparisons to describe the colour of an object.

 

In #Welsh, there are no words that correspond to green, blue, grey or brown as in English. It uses different words including one that covers parts of green, parts of grey and one for the whole of blue that overlaps into green and grey.

 

#Hungarian has two words for the English red, whereas #Navajo Indians in #North America have a single word for blue and green, yet two words for black. In #Greek, #Italian and #Russian, there exist two words for blue that corresponds to light and dark blue and are perceived as separate colours.

 

In English there is a distinction between red and pink, which is not considered in some other languages such as #Chinese. In #Tswana, like #Vietnamese and #Pashto, there is just one word for blue and green, making the listener depend on the context to know which shade the speaker is referring to.

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