ARE THERE ELEVEN BASIC COLOR CATEGORIES? As I posted yesterday, I would have thought that the fact that grue languages do not distinguish between green and blue would be evidence that color cognition is in part influenced by language (culture). It turns out that, as this wikipedia article describes, there is an important “universalist theory that color cognition is an innate, physiological process rather than a cultural one.” The argument derives from a study in 1969 by Berlin and Kay which concluded from data on twenty languages that there are “eleven possible basic color categories: white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, and grey.” They found that there was an absolute evolutionary pattern to the recognition of colors. If there are two colors, they are black and white. If there are three, they are black, white, and red. A fourth: green or yellow. If there are five, both green and yellow. A sixth, blue. A seventh brown. Significantly, “each of the languages studied also selected virtually identical focal hues for each color category.” Therefore, they argued: “cognition, or perception, of each color category is also universal.” I am left still wondering if it makes a difference if—as is the case with a grue language—there is no category for a color in a language. Do the speakers perceive blues and greens as the same?

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