[Tig] Color Standards and Color Nomenclature

Rob Lingelbach rob at colorist.org
Tue Jun 5 23:19:12 BST 2012

On Jun 5, 2012, at 4:54 AM, Richard Kirk wrote:

 [...much very interesting analysis unquoted...]
> I am not sure how useful a collection of named colours would be. I am not sure that naming colours is the way to go. I have seen some databases of spectral colours, and this leaves me with a feeling that an open database of colours would have other uses. We can at least solve the problems of accuracy and permanence, and see where this gets us.

There is a debate in linguistics regarding color nomenclature.  To put it simply, there is a universalist side and a relative side; the former claims that color sense is absolute and not influenced by language, while the latter claims that use of language influences the way we think.  Color naming is a kind of common denominator that applies across all cultures and languages.

The recent book from Guy Deutscher, _Through the Language Glass_, a deep commentary on the development of ideas and language across cultures and history, opens with this subject.  From the review at 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/books/review/Bickerton-t.html?pagewanted=all  :


".... a little-known 19th-century philologist named Lazarus Geiger made profound and surprising discoveries about how languages in general divide up the color spectrum, only to have his discoveries ignored and forgotten and then rediscovered a century later..."


Deutscher analyzes Gladstone and Geiger's work on Homer's Odyssey, where the "wine-dark sea" may be an indicator that color vision was more primitive (and may not have had a term for blue-- there is no use of it in the Greek text).   This would align with the universalist position.  Deutscher casts some doubt on this, finally, but cites enough evidence to argue other points of interest for color nomenclature.

The Wikipedia entry on Linguistic Relativity and the Color Naming Debate:

Rob Lingelbach  http://rob.colorist.org
TIG founder/admin  Colorist

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