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Clyde Hardin; Color categories: Nature and nurture. Journal of Vision 2006;6(13):15. doi: 10.1167/6.13.15.
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In the thirty-seven years since its publication, the principal theses of Berlin and Kay's Basic Color Terms, although widely criticized and significantly amended, have been largely substantiated. Explanations for the cross-language regularities thus established have in many instances been more elusive. Are we to understand them in terms of commonalities in the biology of human color perception, or in the statistics of environmental reflectances, or similarities due to cultural diffusion? That the best examples of five of the color categories in an eleven-term language should fall close to the Hering elemental colors is certainly suggestive of biological origins, but one wonders why some of the Hering colors seem not to be salient in languages with fewer color terms. And on any of the putative accounts of color category formation, why is it that there are many languages in the World Color Survey that have an undifferentiated green-with-blue (“Grue”) category, but very few with an undifferentiated red-with-yellow category? Furthermore, in languages with the largest number of basic color terms, why are there basic terms for some binaries such as purple and orange, while terms referring to binaries such chartreuse and turquoise have never achieved basic status? And why is it that a category such as Green always seems to span a large region of color space, while one such as Red occupies a much smaller one?
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