Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mapping Color Names

Where does "purple" stop and "pink" begin? At what boundary does "green" become "yellow?" Above is a map for an average English speaker.

The blog Empirical Zeal digs into the question of how cultures have arrived at their mental maps of color names.
"The picture that’s emerging is that colors aren’t quite random slices of the visual pie. They’re somewhat basic categories that humans from different cultures gravitate towards, and must have to do with how the biology of how we see the world. In other words, rainbows have seams. We can distill a rainbow into its basic visual ingredients, and a handful of colors come out."
The Crayola-fication of the World.


5 comments:

Rachel E. Holmen said...

I used to work for Brent Berlin, an anthropologist at UC Berkeley who was trying to map color names in different cultures and languages. You can find some of his work via an internet search.

Tometheus said...

BTW, the picture you posted is originally from this blog in case you haven't read it: http://blog.xkcd.com/2010/05/03/color-survey-results/

Rich said...

I've always been wondering what exactly "purple" might be; because it's considered to be such a regal colour.

Elena Jardiniz said...

In English we use a lot of object names for colors - coral, teal (the duck), orange (yes, from the fruit - naranjo in Spanish). Turquoise, brick, rust, chestnut, amber, emerald, the infamous 'aubergine' (a $1.95 word for eggplant) mauve (what IS that color, anyway?) puce - exactly between brown, grey and violet. Taupe, caput mortum is a marvelous pinky-violetish-greyed brown pigment.

Midori is a melon, isn't it? Apricot and peach are both quite different from the fruit, and yet we 'recognize these when we see them'.

Violet which is now synonymous with purple is, in fact, a different color entirely. Violet is that color in the picture, 'purple' is actually a medium dark red - cadmium red dark.

Porphyry, the purple of Imperial days, is a dark reddish marble and late Byzantine emperors had to be born in a special room clad with that stone. Purpleheart wood is a similar color.

Gregory Lee said...

The book Basic Color Terms by Berlin and Kay has been important in the debate about whether language influences our thought. The Wikipedia has a nice article about this, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity_and_the_color_naming_debate, as well as a review of the narrower topic on color terms, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_Color_Terms:_Their_Universality_and_Evolution .