What’s in a name? Colours are all the same for everyone

New York, Sep 11 (IANS) The names of colours may vary according to cultures and languages, but people the world over think of colours the same way, says a study.

Cultures create colour names, but individuals from vastly different societies share the same perceptions of colours in their mind, the findings showed.

When the researchers examined how the indigenous Hadza people of Tanzania name colours, they found that the population of nomadic hunter-gatherers group colours into categories that align with patterns of colour grouping evident in 110 other world languages.

The Hadza people of Tanzania have relatively few commonly shared colour words in their language.

During the study, the most common response by Hadza participants to a request to name a colour was “Don’t know.”

However, the way the participants grouped the colours – regardless of what name they used – tended to match color-naming conventions of Somali-speaking immigrants and native English speakers, and of many other cultures around the world.

“Looking at the Hadza data, we see a relatively modern colour vocabulary emerging, but the colour terms are distributed across the entire population,” said lead author of the study Delwin Lindsey, professor of psychology at The Ohio State University Mansfield Campus in the US.

An earlier study involving 2,616 people in 110 languages also found that across cultures, people tend to classify hundreds of different chromatic colours into only eight distinct categories: red, green, yellow-or-orange, blue, purple, brown, pink and grue (green or blue).

Scientists know a lot about how the human brain responds to seeing colour – and researchers believe that universality of perception makes colour naming a good model for studying patterns in language change.

The new research was published in the journal Current Biology.

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