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Delwin Lindsey, Angela Brown, Ryan Lange; English and Somali differences in understanding of "yellow". Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):623. doi: 10.1167/16.12.623.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A classic test of Hering's opponent-color theory of color appearance is the hue-scaling experiment (e.g., Jameson&Hurvich, 1959), where subjects perceptually decompose test colors into proportions of four fundamental hue sensations: red, green, blue, and yellow. What might this Hering decomposition look like if informants have no distinct categories for one or more of the fundamental sensations? To examine this question, we tested Somalis, some of whom used an achromatic term to name green and/or blue samples, while others used one word for blue and green. In our modified color-scaling protocol, subjects reported hue names, but not their relative proportions. We added black and white to our protocol to accommodate those Somalis who use achromatic terms for green and/or blue. U.S. (n=26) and Somali (n=37) informants first provided Hering names (HNs) for focal color examples of English red, green, blue, yellow, black and white lexical categories. Subjects then used as many of their own HNs as needed to name each of 145 Munsell samples spanning the WCS color chart, or responded "Don't Know." U.S. and Somali informants deployed their respective HNs in a manner generally consistent with a standard Hering decomposition, with the striking exception of the Somali use of yellow HNs, which extended beyond the English yellow HN boundaries to include pink, lavender, purple and often desaturated blues and greens. These results did not depend on the number of HNs available to the Somali informant. Separate multidimensional scaling experiments showed remarkable yellow-purple similarity judgments among Somali informants, but rarely among U.S. informants. Thus, Somalis and U.S. informants differ in their understanding of "yellow." Finally, we found this same pattern in the universal YELLOW category (Lindsey&Brown, 2006) among ~15% of World Color Survey informants (Kay et al., 2009), suggesting this pattern is general to many world languages.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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