Green, blue, red, black… We are used to naming colors. But what about colors that don’t exist in certain languages? Why didn’t anyone think to distinguish them with their own name? It’s an interesting question. And it’s something that happens with two colors, especially: green and blue.
That’s right, some languages don’t have a term for blue and green. What to do in the absence of a lexicon? Linguists started using the word “grue”. This, in English, refers to the combination of both colors. But only now have they found the reason why many speakers do not distinguish the difference in tone between one and the other.
The word grue was coined in 1955 by the American philosopher Nelson Goodman, but it was only in 2021 that a possible answer was found. But it was only in 2021 that a possible answer was found: Why are these colors not mentioned in certain places as distinct, but as one color? What is the explanation for this?
There is a reason why some people do not have words for certain colors. Mainly, because they are very exposed to sunlight. This was revealed by a group of linguists and psychologists from different centers. Among them, the University of York (England), Lumière (France) and Nijmegen (Netherlands).
Light and color
The researchers collected data from 142 populations on all continents. Antarctica was not taken into account. They ranged from the most widely spoken languages, such as Korean and Arabic, to those spoken by a few hundred people. The latter were found in Australia and the Amazon. They found that one factor influencing language was sunlight.
What happens in the brightest places? In places like Central America and East Africa something was happening. “Tongues were significantly less likely to separate green from blue.”
What does this suggest? “Exposure to bright light makes it harder to distinguish blue-green in those languages.” So they state in the study published in Science Reports.
Colors that don’t exist in certain languages are lost by something called “crystalline brunescence”. In these regions, it makes it more difficult to distinguish the two shades.
And if green and blue no longer seem so different to you, fear not. You can call it, now, “grue”.