Colors and Languages

  • Wolfgang Wenning

Abstract

Colors are unsettled entities suspicious to exist in the mind as well as in the world outside. It is hard to say what they “really” are. If they are in the mind, how do they find their place in the world and if they are in the world how do they enter into the mind? If colors “really” are physical states of the brain (or Platonic ideas), how are these related to mental states of color experiences? Much progress has been achieved in understanding color vision as a neural information processing system obeying psychophysical laws. No comparable progress occured — since Plato — in the philosophy of mind. There is much truth in Sokrates’ mythological allusion — in the dialogue Theaitetos — that the goddess of the rainbow, Iris, is in fact known to be the daughter of Thaumas, that is, of somebody who is puzzled. Meanwhile the rainbow is not a puzzle anymore for the physicist, yet it became a puzzle for the linguist. If the stripes of the rainbow — the veils of Iris so to speak — are counted using color terms in different languages, one gets different numbers. For instance in Tzeltal there is only one term for both blue and green. That is why linguists came to believe, that speakers of different languages perceive the rainbow in different ways. If, what is a continuum in physics, is — initially — also a continuum in perception, structure appears to become a matter of linguistic convention.

Keywords

Color Vision Color Naming Basic Color Color Category Opponent Color 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Berlin, B. and Kay, P., 1969, “Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution,” University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  2. Bornstein, M.H., 1975, The Influence of Visual Perception on Culture, American Anthropologist, 77:771–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carterette, E. C. and Friedman, M. R., 1975, “Handbook of Perception, Vol. V,” Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Collier, G. A., 1973, Review of Berlin and Kay, Language, 49:245–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DeValoise, R. L., Abramov, I. and Jacobs, G. H., 1966, Analysis of Response Patterns of LGN Cells, Journ. Opt. Soc. America, 56:966–977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gipper, H., 1972, “Gibt es ein sprachliches Relativitätsprinzip?,” Fischer, Frankfurt a. M.Google Scholar
  7. Heider, E. R., 1972, Probabilities, Sampling, and Ethnographic Method: The Case of Dani Color Names, Man, 7:448–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Heider, E. R., 1972, Universals in Color Naming and Memory, Journal of Experimental Psychology, 93:10–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hering, E., 1878, “Zur Lehre vom Lichtsinne. Sechs Mitteilungen an die Kaiserl. Akad. der Wissenschaften, Carl Gerold’s Sohn, Vienna.Google Scholar
  10. Hurvich, L. M., Jameson, D. and Cohen, J. D., 1968, The Experimental Determination of Unique Green in the Spectrum, Perception and Psychophysics, 4(2):65–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Iijima, T., Wenning, W. and Zollinger, H., 1982, Cultural Factors of Color Naming in Japanese: Naming Tests with Japanese Children in Japan and Europe, Anthropological Linguistics, 24:245–262.Google Scholar
  12. Jameson, D. and Hurvich, L. M., 1955, Some Quantitative Aspects of an Opponent-Colors Theory. I. Chromatic Responses and Spectral Saturation, Journal of the Optical Society of America, 45:546–552 45:546-542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kay, P. 1975, Synchronic Variability and Diachronic Change in the Basic Color Terms, Language in Society, 4:257–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kay, P. and McDaniel, C. K., 1978, The Linguistic Significance of the Meanings of Basic Color Terms, Language, 54:610–646.Google Scholar
  15. Krantz, D. H., 1972, Measurement Structures and Psychological Laws, Science, 175:1427–1435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Krantz, D. H., 1975, Color Measurement and Color Theory: I. Representation Theorem for Grassmann Structures, II. Opponent-Colors.Google Scholar
  17. Theory, Journ. of Mathematical Psychology, 12:283-327.Google Scholar
  18. Mach, E., 1865, Über die Wirkung der räumlichen Verteilung des Lichtreizes auf die Netzhaut, in: Sitzungsbericht d. k. Akad. d. Wiss., 52.Google Scholar
  19. Mach, E., 1911, “Die Analyse der Empfindungen,” 6. edition, Fischer, Jena.Google Scholar
  20. Marr, D., 1982, “Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information,” W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  21. McDaniel, C. K., 1972, “Hue Perception and Hue Naming,” A.B. honors thesis, Harvard College.Google Scholar
  22. Michael, C. R., 1978a, Color Vision Mechanism in Monkey Striate Cortex: Dual-Opponent Cells with Concentric Receptive Fields, Journ. Neurophysiol., 41:572–588.Google Scholar
  23. Michael, C. R., 1978b, Color Sensitive Complex Cells in Monkey Striate Cortex, Journ. Neurophysiol., 41:1250–1266.Google Scholar
  24. Mollon, J. D., 1982, Color Vision, Ann. Rev. Psychol., 33:41–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Platon, 1958, Theaitetos, in: “Platon IV,” Rowohlt, Hamburg.Google Scholar
  26. Ratliff, F., 1973, The Logic of the Retina, in: “From Theoretical Physics to Biology,” M. Marois, ed., S. Karger, Basel and New York.Google Scholar
  27. Ratliff, F., 1976, On the Psychophysiological Bases of Universal Color Terms, Proc. of the American Philosoph. Soc, 120:311–330.Google Scholar
  28. Svaetichin, G., 1953, The Cone Action Potential, Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 29 (Suppl. 106):565–600.Google Scholar
  29. Wald, G. and Brown, P. K., 1965, Human Color Vision and Color Blindness, Cold Spring Harbor Symp. on Quant. Biol., 30:345–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wenning, W., 1982, Wittgensteins ‘Logik der Farbbegriffe’ und die Geometrie des Farbraums, in: “Language and Ontology. Proceedings of the 6th International Wittgenstein Symposium,” W. Leinfellner, E. Kraemer and J. Schänk, eds., Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Vienna.Google Scholar
  31. Wenning, W., 1983, Parallelen zwischen Sehtheorie und Wittgensteins Sprachphilosophie, in: “Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. Proceedings of the 7th International Wittgenstein Symposium,” P. Weingartner and H. Czermak, eds., Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Vienna.Google Scholar
  32. Wenning, W., 1984, Farbwörter und Sehen, in: “Festschrift für H. Schnelle,” T. Ballmer and R. Posner, eds., deGruyter, Berlin.Google Scholar
  33. Wiesel, T. N. and Hubel, D. H., 1966, Spatial and Chromatic Interactions in the Lateral Geniculate Body of the Rhesus Monkey, Journal of Neurophysiology, 29:1115–1156.Google Scholar
  34. Zadeh, L. A., 1965, Fuzzy Sets, Information and Control, 8:338–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Zollinger, H., 1972, Human Color Vision as an Interdisciplinary Research Problem, Palette, 40:25–31.Google Scholar
  36. Zollinger, H., 1973, Zusammenhänge zwischen Farbbenennung und Biologie des Farbensehens beim Menschen, Vierteljahresschrift Naturf. Ges. Zürich, 118:227–255.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Wenning
    • 1
  1. 1.Berlin 31Germany

Personalised recommendations