# Words for colors--Can Russians see the color blue?

... This is true of everything, not just colors. It is far easier for us to think about and talk about things that we have words for. ...
Yes inventing and naming zero is one of mankind´s greatest advances, IMHO. Try to calculate some relatively simple solution to a math problem, using a numerical system like Roman Numerials that lacks a named number for "nothing" - has no zero.

Yes. I have long had such a wheel, in the form of a small disk top. The colors are not strong but exist in your perception. The back is in annular bands and most importantly not continuous black rings. I.e. there are white spaces separating the black segments (perhaps 3 or 4) of each band segment.

How it produces perceived colors from only spinning black broken black annular segments on a white (natural wood color in my top´s case) is not 100% understood but mainly due to the fact the time response characteristics of the three color cells are not identical. I.e. after a step function stimulation by the white (which excites all RGB cells briefly and then stops when the next black segment´s image falls on the cells that were "step function excited" they don´t lose their neural activity immediately and do so at different decay rates. Thus when the first mm or so of the next black band falls on the cells that were shock excited, there is still some decaying neural activity and IT IS NOT BALANCED to make the perception of fading white light, so you perceive the weak color associated with this unbalanced quasi-white residual stimulation.

What is not known, I think when I investigated this ~30 years ago, is: Where is this unequal decay rate effect taking place. I suspect it is in that part of the brain called V4 where color is represented by the neural activity in two different sets of brain cells. Most brain cells are always firing at some background rate which for V4 cells, I´ll call 5. One of the two sets is the blue/yellow axis (other is green red) I forget if firing rate of 7 in the blue yellow set corresponds to blue or yellow, but will just continue this discussion by assuming it is blue you are then perceiving. Firing at 3 rate is to perceive yellow. I suspect that step function excitation of white light causes 5 discharge rate to be established very quickly in both these V4 color axis but in one (or probably both) there is a slight shift away from 5 for fraction of a second – weak and some strange color is perceived.
You can, as many know perceive strong false colors also by long (minute or so) fixation on red spot (say a triangle) on a white wall especially when well illuminated. The when you shift fixation to some other spot on the white wall, you perceive green spot of the same shape. There are many demonstrations of this in the internet – search under “color fatigue after effects” Sort of what is happening is if staring at the red spot initially makes activity level 8 in the red green axis, those active cells run out of energy to keep firing at that high rate so at end of minute they fire at only 6, but you don´t notice this 25% decrease in their firing ability until you fixate on the white wall, which should produce 5 but those cells that are 25% fatigued have not recovered yet so only 4 is produced.

This is all over simplified and false, just to give some idea of what is happening. (Why I said: “Sort of what is happening …”) You can see that if the spot were green in my story, giving a firing rate of 2 instead of 8 and then when fatigued by 25% the rate is 1.5, which is not red but “greener.” To get a little closer to the truth, think of white perceptions as 5r + 5g +5y + 5b firing rates in each half of the cells in both color axises. Then staring at red spot converts this balanced rate set when red 5r has fatigued to 4r into 4r + 5g +5y + 5b and 4r no longer offset the 5g so you see green. That description is as close to the truth as I can (or at least care to) go, but the true story is more complex still as to even set up these two (R/G & Y/B) axis form the retinal triad of RGB cell activity there are several intermediate computational transforms of what mathematicians would call the descriptive “basis set.” Like switching from Cartesian to Polar Coordinate basis. Years ago, I knew the equations telling / making these basis transforms, but have forgotten them now and am far too lazy to look them up. The activity in the bright/dark axis, which is like the two color axis but contains intensity information, enters into these basis transform equation also. (and they are only good linear approximation to what the brain is doing in V4 (and some in other parts of the visual system) plus the effects of the surrounds and knowledge that tree leaves are green I mentioned in may earlier long post.

BTW everyone has seen green tree leaves when the sun is dipping below the horizon and bathing the scene in only quite reddish light, but few are amazed by this every day occurrence – an example of known knowledge strongly affecting your perceived color. There is some green light falling on the leaves from solar rays that wnet straight to high atmosphere and then scattered down to the leaves but not nearly as much as the direct reddish rays nor even as much as the scattered down blue rays. This scattering cross section is inversely proportional to the fourth power of the wave length and blue being shorter wavelength is the dominate color scattered down from high air – why the sky is blue (still shorter purple scatters better but our sun is too cool to make much of it).

The brain is much more complex and interesting than physics. I have a “crackpot” (I.e. non standard POV) about how perception “works” which easily explains dozens of observation the POV accepted by cognitive scientists cannot and would be expected to be how evolution would have created perception and permits free will to exist without being in conflict with science which tells the firing of every nerve is deterministically by the laws of Chemist & Physics which I also believe.

Perhaps some may want to read about this POV which is much more in agreement with the know neuro-phyology and behavior of humans than the standard POV (“Perception ‘emerges’ after many stages of neural computational transforms of the sensory inputs.”) which is clearly false in several circumstances, for example visual dreams with eyes closed and many other false predictions of the standard POV. If interested, read:

http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=905778&postcount=66 and some posts in a thread on free will, especially this one explaining in more detail my RTS concepts:
http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=2644660&postcount=82 but be warned, they long especially the the first as I try to show with supporting data that my POV must be more correct than the more widely held POV.

Outstanding analysis. Perception is indeed a very complex process once we get into it.

Just go into a paint or fabric store.
i'm sure there are many colors but let's not confuse red and pink for example.
pink is just unsaturated red
there is also additive and subtractive methods of color mixing, both using its own primary colors.
television uses red, green and blue and i believe (if memory serves) that the equation for white is 0.59R+0.11B+0.31G.
also white is defined as a certain temperature of platinum.

edit:
the equation for white is 0.30R+0.11B+0.59G

I caught this thread on the first page and thought racism should be against sciforum rules.

Then I noticed it is in linguistics, and that made it seem somehow better as it was a challenge against the language and not the actual abilities.

чёрный black [chyor-niy]
белый white [byeh-liy]
красный red [krahs-niy]
синий blue [see-niy]
зелёный green [zee-lyoh-niy]
оранжевый orange [oh-rahn-zhi-viy]
жёлтый yellow [zhyol-tiy]
голубой sky-blue [gah-loo-boy]
тёмно-синий dark-blue, navy [tyohm-nah see-niy]
коричневый brown [kah-rich-nee-viy]
фиолетовый violet [fee-ah-lyeh-tah-viy]
розовый pink [roh-zah-viy]
серый gray [syeh-riy]

I see 3 types of Russian blues in their language. Nobody even noted that in the first page but Electricfetus did on page 2.

Russians have many words for blue.

I caught this thread on the first page and thought racism should be against sciforum rules.
my first thought was it should be moved to philosophy.
Then I noticed it is in linguistics, and that made it seem somehow better as it was a challenge against the language and not the actual abilities.
are you implying russians have actual abilities?
(oh man, that was too easy.)
Nobody even noted that in the first page but Electricfetus did on page 2.
that's what happens when you have fried fetus for lunch, something to do with omega 3.
Russians have many words for blue.
if you can't make it good then make it blue.
russians, blue, language, philosophy, and of course the kitchen sink.

This part of MR's topic was addressed early on: "I've heard that there is no word for 'blue' in the Russian language. [...] Is this true?" Example, source of *New Scientist* this time:

Russian speakers get the blues: "The language you speak can affect how you see the world, a new study of colour perception indicates. Native speakers of Russian -- which lacks a single word for 'blue' -- discriminated between light and dark blues differently from their English-speaking counterparts, researchers found..."

Whereas this part of his original post, along with related branched-off fare, apparently persisted as the core discussion topic: "And what does this imply about the role of language in sensory perception? If you have no name for a color can you still see it?"

Can you see the old lady? It takes a little effort... http://www.moillusions.com/2008/12/just-some-few-old-hags.html

Good reminder of how over the decades most people exposed to even the older classic, for the first time, had to be told about beforehand that there were two different conceptions of the pattern, in order to discern the other one being there at all. Then there was Witt's rabbit / duck, but that was just the dual-conceptual flickering alone rather than a "hidden gimmick".

Russians have many words for blue.

Things that get lost or added in translation ...

No, it's elementary biology. /.../
Non-human animals have fewer high-level cognitive skills because they have less hardware to host those skills. They operate more on instinct and on the pre-programmed behaviors in their midbrain.

If you one keeps repeating these statements to oneself, one will eventually probably believe them, and then actually see the world according to them - which will in turn make one think that one is correct.

The limits of my neurolinguistic stance are the limits of my world.

I believe that cats are rational beings, you don't. The practical consequence of our beliefs and how we act on them is that my cats don't pee on the rug, while yours do.

Russian speakers get the blues: "The language you speak can affect how you see the world, a new study of colour perception indicates. Native speakers of Russian -- which lacks a single word for 'blue' -- discriminated between light and dark blues differently from their English-speaking counterparts, researchers found..."

regardless of what the research says, language can not change what you see.
you can of course call it anything you like but the fact remains that each sample reflects a certain distinct wavelength to the eye.

If you one keeps repeating these statements to oneself, one will eventually probably believe them, and then actually see the world according to them - which will in turn make one think that one is correct. The limits of my neurolinguistic stance are the limits of my world.
You've taken too many philosophy courses. It's time for Science 101A.

I believe that cats are rational beings, you don't.
How do you know what I believe? We've never discussed this.

Every animal with a brain acts partially from reason, partially from habit, partially from instinct, and partially from non-cerebral causes such as reflex. We can even get into Maslowe's Hierarchy if you want: some are motivated primarily by survival, others by self-actualization--or at least the quest to understand what that means.

Humans have uniquely enormous forebrains, so we have a well-developed ability to override instinct with reasoning and learning. Cats have a much smaller forebrain, so their instincts guide more of their behavior. Some mammals and birds have impressive forebrains (while still qualitatively smaller than ours) and have considerable conscious control over their activities, while others do not. Reptiles have even smaller forebrains, amphibians still smaller, and many fish have little more than an overgrown olfactory lobe serving as their center of reasoning. (The vertebrate forebrain started out as a center for identifying odors and pheromones and deciding whether to move toward them for food or away from them for safety.)

The practical consequence of our beliefs and how we act on them is that my cats don't pee on the rug, while yours do.

Once again, where the hell do you get off making these preposterous claims about the way I live based upon zero information? It's like me asserting that you drink half a bottle of tequila every morning because it's the only way you can stand to deal with your boss. (If I were your boss I'd need a whole bottle myself.)

I generally don't give people formal discipline for insulting me in my own subforum because I believe moderators are supposed to have thick skins: it's one of the things that makes it possible to do this job. But don't assume that other moderators feel this way!

But you did insult me. My wife and I have had more than fifty companion animals of a dozen species over our 35-year life together and they have all been well civilized. Well most of them.

Cats have an exceptional appreciation for cleanliness and do not like to soil the places where they sleep and eat. It's not difficult to teach them that the entire indoor space is theirs so it's better to pee outside. Cats pee indoors because their humans have not bothered to teach them that, or because their humans don't let them out as often as they need to go, or because their humans are dickheads who they feel deserve to be punished.

I had one cat who peed indoors because he had an intractable cystitis problem. I spent a fortune on veterinary bills but to no avail. Let this be a sober warning to all the kind-hearted people who rescue unwanted pets: sometimes there's a reason they were unwanted. I didn't discover until after the fact that the lady I got this cat from worked in a veterinary clinic and was snatching the cats who were scheduled for euthanasia, without finding out why.

It was a difficult decision that she foisted on me because she was too weak to make it herself: Let the cat live outdoors, which was legal then but soon won't be, as they kill one billion birds every year, or take him on a second trip to death row.

Belief has nothing to do with it. You've become famous for your preposterous off-the-cuff remarks, and this one was a classic.

You've taken too many philosophy courses. It's time for Science 101A.

Translation: "It's time to subjugate yourself to scientism."

IOW, you've managed to brush aside the whole issue that the OP puts forward.

If anything, you should take a course in linguistics! :gasp:
Linguists have all those fancy theories - and so many of them - about how language works.

How do you know what I believe? We've never discussed this.

Of course we have.

regardless of what the research says, language can not change what you see.

It has to do with the cognitive aspect of "seeing" itself, not necessarily "changing" what may not have been detected to begin with. I once walked by a copperhead without noticing it, that was within my field of vision (especially since I was looking downward). A friend yelled "snake!", whereupon, being given or reminded of the general concept or classification for the creature, I then finally discerned its shape / slightly differing pigments in the similar, obscuring color of the leaves.

"Seeing" isn't mere reception of environmental energies. If that was the case, then rocks would be conscious of an undifferentiated blob of brightness, just by absorbing light. Or better put, wholesale panpsychism would the case if cognition was just surface contact or stimulation of tissue rather than an existing, deeper organization within for assembling, discriminating, giving attention to, recognizing patterns, and "understanding" what was received (the brain being considered something more than just skull filler, as one occasionally gets the opposite impression of from listening to advocates of direct or passive perception). IOW, a system is involved which does possess inherent "schemes" for processing sensory input that are a kind of "tacit knowledge", but the system also acquires new ones socially, as well as inventing its own conceptions over time, that contribute to apprehension and comprehension of its experiences. Everyday appearances-wise, language is the medium for the latter activities, even if reducible to a substrate of electrochemical operations (the latter not even fathomed or explored until the recent era).

Much of science is explicit knowledge represented by formal description -- what various theories, models, and understandings may describe or reference are not always neat, empirical objects like "that house" which can be sighted and pointed-to. There are kids who could assimilate an initial grasp of biological evolution by reading a book about it, because even otherwise, the scattered evidence, research, and the reflective thought which integrated and formulated the idea are not something to be witnessed by walking over a hilltop and sighting it as a tangible, exalted Black Monolith or whatever, where immediately afterwards one says: "Ah ha, I grasp what evolution is by seeing it as concrete thing here!" That is, we often absorb concepts that were initially detailed by language or even another symbolic system before they are turned into their counterparts as modifications of neural structure in the brain. And when those are recalled to consciousness, for conversation with someone else or private thought, they are converted back to language or whatever manner of description.

A caveman walking into a laboratory would see a garbled, generalized mess of unfamiliar and uninteresting equipment which he would not much bother to take notice of in specific detail unless an instructor pointed to a particular item, and later, referred to it with the learned term alone. Later still, the caveman would not merely discern the "thing" from the background and identify it, but have knowledge of what it did, its history of development, etc. How the item is "seen / cognized" matures.

Translation: "It's time to subjugate yourself to scientism."
This is a place of science. We're all here because we want to discuss science and learn more about it. If you have some wacky objection to the scientific method (and on this website any objection to the scientific method automatically qualifies as "wacky" and is likely to get you relegated to the boards devoted to crackpottery, pseudoscience and religion), then you need to be a little more verbose about it, rather than throwing around hostile terms from the 19th century.

- Scientism: the belief that the assumptions, methods of research, etc., of the physical and biological sciences are equally appropriate and essential to all other disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences.​

IOW, you've managed to brush aside the whole issue that the OP puts forward.
"IOW" is an abbreviation for "in other words." You seem to think it means "in my words." I never said, "The limits of my neurolinguistic stance are the limits of my world." I am a musician (vocals and bass guitar) so anyone who knows me would wonder who you're talking about, since it can't possibly be me. I may have diverged from the OP because this thread has wandered off in some interesting directions, but I have no hostility toward the issue it raised, and in fact I have responded to it more than once, generally from the perspective of a linguist.

Linguists have all those fancy theories - and so many of them - about how language works.
There's a good reason linguistics is classified with the "soft sciences" such as economics and psychology. The complete toolset of the scientific method cannot be used in linguistic research, any more than it can in economics or psychology. Experimentation, for example, is almost impossible to perform in any meaningful scope.

Some of their theories (which I stridently recommend calling "hypotheses" until they've been proven true beyond a reasonable doubt like evolution and plate tectonics) are promising, and even if they turn out to be wrong they've given us some good ideas and suggested some new directions for research. Yet most of the questions about language and linguistics that non-linguists find most compelling do not yet have good answers. For example, we still don't know whether language is one of the technologies that was invented only once and quickly spread before anybody else thought of it (like the domestication of the cat and the symbol for zero), or whether it was invented in multiple places and eras (like pottery and writing). The answer to this question is key to one of the most intriguing issues in the entire field of study:

- There are so many commonalities among languages, is this because they're all descended from one original language that happened to have those attributes, or is this because the human brain is wired that way so every language we invent is going to have those attributes?​

Of course we have [discussed whether non-human animals are rational creatures].
That's never come up before. My previous remark, "Every animal with a brain acts partially from reason, partially from habit, partially from instinct, and partially from non-cerebral causes such as reflex," may be the first time I've ever offered an opinion on this issue on this entire website.

Words for colors, especially English?

Due to the paint & cosmetics industries, English (& likely other languages) have hundreds or thousands of color words. Artists have a large number of color words.

I would like a discussion omitting the above & also omitting phrases like ruby red, navy blue, dark green, et cetera.

I am interested in the vocabulary of a typical speaker of English & other languages.

English has quite a few words relating to red hues: Red, maroon, crimson, vermillion, pink. Do other languages have a similar number of words for red hues?

Aside from red hues, English seems to have quite a few commonly used color words: Green, blue, purple, violet, yellow, brown, tan, black, white, gray.

I have been told that Russian has two words for hues which English speakers would call blue. Is this true? Are there similar examples in other languages?

Does English have a larger color vocabulary than other languages?

BTW: It is interesting to note that there are no hues which would be described as reddish green yellowish blue. This must be due to some charactieristic of human color perception.

BTW: It is interesting to note that there are no hues which would be described as reddish green yellowish blue. This must be due to some characteristic of human color perception.

Reddish Green we call Brown in Canada. Yellowish Blue we might call Green.

Colours are often associated with poetry, and literature has probably given license for many to interchange colour with an object with a known colour. If I said a wall was Lavender then you would likely know I meant purple. In fact; you would know the precise shade of purple I was mentioning.

I would think this license would be equally valid in any language.

It is also likely that the Roots of the words were derived from words associated with colour such as "Orange".

I grew up in a printing environment, and learned colours based on PMS numbers, and could mix by eye.

I am sure there are lists out there of colours.

NOTE: I am not editing out phrases included here.

COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER A
Alizarin
Amaranth
Amber
Amethyst
Apricot
Aqua
Aquamarine
Asparagus
Auburn
Azure
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER B
Beige
Bistre
Black
Blue
Blue Green
Blue Violet
Bondi Blue
Brass
Bronze
Brown
Buff
Burgundy
Burnt Orange
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER C
Camouflage Green
Caput Mortuum
Cardinal
Carmine
Carrot orange
Cerise
Cerulean
Champagne
Charcoal
Chartreuse
Cherry Blossom Pink
Chestnut
Chocolate
Cinnabar
Cinnamon
Cobalt
Copper
Coral
Corn
Cornflower
Cream
Crimson
Cyan
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER D
Dandelion
Denim
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER E
Ecru
Emerald
Eggplant
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER F
Falu red
Fern green
Firebrick
Flax
Forest green
French Rose
Fuchsia
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER G
Gamboge
Gold
Goldenrod
Green
Grey
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER H
Han Purple
Harlequin
Heliotrope
Hollywood Cerise
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER I
Indigo
Ivory
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER J
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER K
Kelly green
Khaki
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER L
Lavender
Lawn green
Lemon
Lemon chiffon
Lilac
Lime
Lime green
Linen
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER M
Magenta
Magnolia
Malachite
Maroon
Mauve
Midnight Blue
Mint green
Misty rose
Moss green
Mustard
Myrtle
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER N
Navajo white
Navy Blue
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER O
Ochre
Office green
Olive
Olivine
Orange
Orchid
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER P
Papaya whip
Peach
Pear
Periwinkle
Persimmon
Pine Green
Pink
Platinum
Plum
Powder blue
Puce
Prussian blue
Psychedelic purple
Pumpkin
Purple
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER Q
Quartz Grey
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER R
Raw umber
Razzmatazz
Red
Robin egg blue
Rose
Royal blue
Royal purple
Ruby
Russet
Rust
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER S
Safety orange
Saffron
Salmon
Sandy brown
Sangria
Sapphire
Scarlet
School bus yellow
Sea Green
Seashell
Sepia
Shamrock green
Shocking Pink
Silver
Sky Blue
Slate grey
Smalt
Spring bud
Spring green
Steel blue
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER T
Tan
Tangerine
Taupe
Teal
Tenné (Tawny)
Terra cotta
Thistle
Titanium White
Tomato
Turquoise
Tyrian purple
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER U
Ultramarine
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER V
Van Dyke Brown
Vermilion
Violet
Viridian
COLORS BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER W
Wheat
White
Wisteria
COLOR BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER X
Xanthic
COLOR BEGINNING WITH THE LETTER Y
Yellow