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Re: [ontolog-forum] notes and rumours

To: Waclaw Kusnierczyk <Waclaw.Marcin.Kusnierczyk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2007 09:59:55 -0500
Message-id: <p06230903c2b00d7f2cd4@[]>
>John F. Sowa wrote:
>>  the Slavic languages make
>>  a sharp distinction of siniy (dark blue) and goluboy (light
>>  blue).
>In Polish, 'siny' is typically defined as blue-violet, not just dark
>blue;  it is the color of desaturated blood (visible, e.g., on the lips
>of someone who freezes).  Blue (simply blue) is 'niebieski' ('niebo'
>means sky), and there is also 'blekitny' (light blue, more or less),
>etc. -- surely you have a few such words in English as well?    (01)

I would translate both 'siny' and 'niebieski' as 
'blue' and 'blekitny' as 'pastel blue' or 'sky 
blue' or 'light blue' depending on the context, 
unless a more precise translation were important. 
English refers to frozen people having blue lips. 
This kind of phenomenon is common, almost 
universal: different cultures and languages carve 
up the color space into different named regions. 
(The same happens with, for example, spatial 
prepositions: Dutch has a version of 'in' which 
applies only to the case of a tight or exact 
fit.) Nevertheless, the choice of the 
prototypical colors is, apparently, not cultural. 
A Pole will draw a different boundary around 
'niebieski' than an Englishman will around 
'blue', but if you ask them to choose one color 
point to be the most representative such color, 
they will choose the same one. Everyone on the 
planet will choose fire-engine red, alarm yellow 
and policeman-blue as the most typical or 
characteristic colors.    (02)

For an artist, there are many color names, often 
very precise, some of them named after particular 
pigments. Cerulean is the color of a shallow sea 
over white sand. Prussian blue is a dark, rich 
green-tinted translucent blue, like dark blue 
glass. Ultramarine is a bright vivid intense 
saturated blue, a little too dark to be 'simply 
blue' but otherwise very close to the prototype. 
Less precise, and more in common usage, there are 
'sky blue', which refers to a moderate pastel 
blue (not, in fact, the color of a clear sunny 
sky, which is more saturated) and Pthalo blue, 
which is somewhere between cerulean and prussian. 
Similarly, any painter will know the difference 
between chrome yellow, lemon yellow and naples 
yellow; or between chrome red, alizarin and rose 
madder; or sap green, viridian and chrome green. 
Or, for that matter, between zinc white and 
titanium white, or lamp black and ivory black. 
But I doubt that any of these distinctions are 
widely known by people who do not use artists 
pigments.    (03)

I wonder, is all this English? Or is it Artist English, a special dialect?    (04)

Pat    (05)

>A study on this distinction, which perhaps you had in mind, has been
>recently published in PNAS ("Russian blues reveal effects of language on
>color discrimination", 2007 May 8;104(19):7780-5).
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