Monday, February 05, 2018

On language and color perception

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: The Missing Shade of Blue (Shiyanthi Thavaplan).
Why did many languages only have a single word to designate both ‘green’ and ‘blue’? What does it mean when a language like Akkadian does not have an abstract word for the color ‘blue’? Could Akkadian-speakers nonetheless see and conceptualize ‘blueness’? Equally puzzling was the contrast between the ubiquitous use of colorful substances and objects and the relative dearth of terms or expressions for color. Ethnological data combined with research in cognitive sciences eventually demonstrated that color was a culturally determined and culturally constructed phenomenon. In many societies, words for things like luminosity, transparency, the contrast between wetness/desiccation, patterns and even psycho-emotional values are considered color terms. Different cultures make sense of color differently.
PaleoJudaica has noted past articles on this subject here and here. This one gives lots of illustrated examples from the ancient Akkadian language.

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