Mark Jensen


Mark Jensen

Mark Jensen

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Does your language distinguish green from blue?

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. Also, some languages treat light (often greenish) blue and dark blue as separate colors, rather than different variations of blue, while English does not.

Holy. Shit.

According to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay’s 1969 study Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, distinct terms for brown, purple, pink, orange and grey will not emerge in a language until the language has made a distinction between green and blue. (…)

Many languages do not have separate terms for blue and green, instead using a cover term for both (when the issue is discussed in linguistics, this cover term is sometimes called grue in English). For example, in Vietnamese both tree leaves and the sky are xanh (to distinguish, one may use xanh lá cây “leaf grue” for green and xanh dương “ocean grue” for blue). In the Thai language, เขียว (khiaw) means green except when referring to the sky or the sea, when it means blue;(…)

Being a linguistic student in high school has ruined languages for me forever—I will always try to understand the patterns behind them, and this just bent my mind out of shape. Great stuff.

(via Wikipedia.)

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