Words for colors--Can Russians see the color blue?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Magical Realist, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    You two seem to be operating out of a different understanding of what "see" can mean.

    For one, "see" can refer to the things that happen in the eye, concerning wavelengths, photoreceptors etc.
    For two, "see" can refer to what the brain or mind does with incoming stimuli.
     
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    For verbal/conceptual specification to occur, there must exist some need or other reason for it.
    Arguably, that need or other reason comes first, not the word or concept.

    For example, for people living in a rain forest it may be of vital importance to distinguish between different shades of green categorically, to the point of considering the altogether different colors, if those (what to us are just) different shades of green make a difference between, say, a wholesome and poisonous plant, or between a ripe and unripe fruit.

    Can you tell, for example a ripe from an unripe avocado just by looking at it? Many people probably can't, but there may be some who can.
     
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  5. Enmos Staff Member

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    It's very simple. If someone can detect electromagnetic radiation in the range of 450–495 nm and can differentiate between this range and other wavelengths, they can see what we call blue. What they make of it in their head is actually not relevant. You don't need any words for that.

    This is exactly what I posted earlier.
     
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks for your informative post. I had know idea how universal this blue-green distinction problem was in language. Regarding "seeing" colors, I heard that yellow too is a color we should not be able to see since we lack receptors for it. Is yellow largely constructed in the brain, much as in the case of how we visually "infer" yellow from the green, red, and blue pixels of old style colored TVs?
     
  8. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Wynn..yes there does seem to be a difference here in how we are defining the words "see" or "perceive". I take sight to be something that occurs largely in the brain. Have you ever looked at something-"seeing" it with only your eyes--while thinking about something else? Tasked to remember what you were looking at, it's not likely you will recall seeing it. That's because seeing is an act of being AWARE of perceiving something. Without that awareness we might as well be blind.
     
  9. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    the brain cannot do something without some kind of input.
    the sensation of green must be somehow perceived by the eye.
    it might do it the same way the NTSC does it.
    in the NTSC system green is not sent, only the red and blue is sent and green is assembled from the R-Y and B-Y signals.
    in this case the Y component is the luminance information.
    regardless of how it's detected green is the result.
    in TV yellow is "not blue".
     
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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  11. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    language cannot alter what we perceive, period.
    if that were the case we, as a species, would not have any standards such as length.
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You'll love Esperanto. All nouns end in O, all adjectives end in A, all adverbs end in E, all infinitives end in I, all present tense verbs end in AS, all past tense verbs in IS, all imperative verbs in U, etc.

    And you'll probably hate Chinese. The concepts we express as adjectives are all verbs. Hong doesn't mean "red," it means "be/being/is/are red."

    None of the European languages had it. That's why we all borrowed Arabic naranj, which ultimately comes via Persian from Sanskrit naranga. In Spanish it's still una naranja, but in English we mis-parsed "a norange" as "an orange" and it got stuck that way. The (early) French got un orenge wrong too.

    We always wondered how birds can tell the males and females apart for courtship, since they look identical to us. It turns out that they have ultraviolet pigmentation. We have only three "cone" photoreceptor cells for daylight vision; most birds have a fourth--at the expense of so few "rod" receptors that most of them are almost totally blind at night. Bees have seven; they use them to determine whether a flower is ripe with pollen. (Dogs have only two but they have many more "rods" for keen black-and-white night vision.)

    We had avocado trees in our back yard in Los Angeles; we got about 200 every year. They contain so much fat that they freeze well and last all year. After ten years we still couldn't find any way to tell the ripeness by appearance.
     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Nonsense. Imagine viewing a scene outside your window. You're taking it all in, scanning over its details in a relaxed state of mind. Now suppose I say "clouds". Suddenly you will notice the clouds more than anything else. Then let me say "trees". At that point the trees leap to the fore of your awareness. Language is definitely having an affect on what you perceive and distinguish as present to your awareness. Perception is more than just about inputs. It's also about differentiating those inputs, constructing them into gestalts, and ultimately objectifying them as beings independent of our act of seeing. I contend that language is always doing this for us on some unconscious computational level. Objectification presupposes predication, and predication is an operation of language.
     
  14. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    whether you "notice" something or not does NOT alter its reality.
    the clouds and trees were always there, language neither alters their reality, size, shape, or color.
    voltmeters cannot detect voltage spikes either but that in no way says they (voltage spikes) do not exist.
    a voltage spike of 200 volts and a microsecond wide is the same whether a russian or american is describing it.
     
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    For all practical intents and purposes, what matters is precisely that "what a person makes of it in their head." Because this is what people actually work with, in their thinking and then in their acting.

    My eyes may be physically capable of distingusihing many nuances of, say, what is formaly defined as the green spectrum, but if I have no use for that, it does not matter that my eyes can do that.


    It's not like I copy-pasted from you.
     
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    That is like saying that the only relevant reality is the one "out there", the one that exists independently of us.

    And yet for a human, the only thing that really is relevant is whatever they are actually able to work with, which depends on the particular abilities of their bodies and brains.


    Agreed.

    Which is why our abilities per se are not the sole criterion for what we see, much less for how able we will be to act in a situation.


    I remember an incident back when I was learning to drive: there was a number of things I had to pay attention to - the clutch, the brakes, the gas, the mirrors, the car on my right etc. etc. There was a pedestrian walking across the road, right in front of my car, I was aware of him, but I couldn't do anything, my brain was overloaded. I remember that I saw him, but it was as if I didn't know what to do. If asked, I could clearly say what I was supposed to do, namely, stop my car by first pressing the clutch and then the brake, but right there, it was just too much at once for me to act right. Like when a computer hangs. (I didn't hit the pedestrian, by the way.)

    Over time, one of course manages to do a great number of things, and do them well, without being aware of them. And then readily forgets that there was a time when one had to follow a very detailed script to do them.

    How many things that now we take for granted, at some point we had to learn at an extremely slow pace and in great detail?
     
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Back to the question What is language?
     
  18. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    You didn't say that. You said language doesn't alter what we PERCEIVE. It certainly does. And to the extent that reality is a concept constructed inside our brains, it influences that as well. What do YOU define as real? That definitional operation is an aspect of language.
     
  19. Enmos Staff Member

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    How can you ever know if I perceive the color blue the same way you do when we both call the same thing blue?
     
  20. Robittybob1 Banned Banned

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    Wrong! They can even imagine a mouse.
     
  21. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    gotta go, duty calls, but i'll get back with you.
     
  22. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Regarding animal thought, there's probably a common tendency, like Temple Grandin's below, to consider them utterly dependent upon wholesale visual, audible, etc., memories (not represented and symbolically condensed by language) to apply to immediate experiences for any limited reflection and understanding.

    Do Animals Think Like Autistic Savants?: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080219203603.htm

    "Grandin, who responds to the authors' critique in a special commentary, suggests that 'the basic disagreement between the authors and me arises from the concept of details -- specifically how details are perceived by humans, who think in language, compared with animals, who think in sensory-based data. Since animals do not have verbal language, they have to store memories as pictures, sounds, or other sensory impressions.' And sensory-based information, she says, is inherently more detailed than word-based memories. 'As a person with autism, all my thoughts are in photo-realistic pictures,' she explains. 'The main similarity between animal thought and my thought is the lack of verbal language.'"

    But let's not forget that many animals have a repertory of communication signals that can be far more complex than traditionally believed. Even wild turkeys have 25 to 30 calls consisting of items like "gobbles," "putts," "clucks," "purrs," "yelps," "cutts," "cackles," "whines," and "kee-kees" which additionally have different inflexions within those vocalizations that have their own specific meanings (as Joe Hutto mentions in the PBS "Nature" episode "My Life As A Turkey"). Certainly this by no means replaces their assumed heavy dependence on recalling stored sensory data. But animals may share more with humans in how they 'think' than, again, is commonly believed.

    - - - Wild Turkeys: Far From Their Artificially Degenerated Domestic Counterparts - - -

    Steve Donoghue, in the course of reviewing Joe Hutto's book "Illumination in the Flatwoods", describes it thus: "The picture that emerges is a quiet revelation: that complexity exists everywhere we look for it, and that there might be as many kinds of consciousness as their are kinds of creatures in the world. Readers of 'Illumination in the Flatwoods' will step from its last page into a broader world, a world of fewer assumptions. Such higher effects were almost certainly not Hutto’s design in keeping a journal of his time with his birds – this is a delightfully unassuming book – but they happen just the same."

    Joe Hutto's months-long experiment back in the '90s, of living with wild turkeys, which a team conducted again on film with a persevering look-alike for Hutto: Link

    Hutto: ...the film was a genuine “recreation”– a complete replication of an experiment. It served as a vindication for me, in the sense that if an experiment cannot be replicated it is considered to be of no scientific merit. I of course, had no way of knowing if other young wild turkeys would behave as mine did. So, the simplified explanation is: After permitting was accomplished, the State of Florida trapped wild turkey hens, installed radio collars in Spring, robbed nests when they started laying ,and the backwoods savvy actor, Jeff Palmer incubated and began “imprinting” the eggs. (Hens, by the way, will nest a second time or even a third if they are unsuccessful on the first try.) My roll was strictly on-screen and off screen narration. The guy you see with the birds is always Jeff. They did in fact film for over a year in order to record all the development and life cycle. Wild turkey personalities vary wildly, so conveniently, there were similarities in the group that approximated a Sweet Pea and a Turkey Boy -- and yes, poor Jeff got butt kicked by the Turkey Boy character. To my absolute amazement, this film crew -- mostly legendary British cinematographer, Mark Smith -- managed to actually recreate many events in the book that I considered impossible. He and Jeff were incredible! Jeff had to be with those poults, as I was, and my hat is off that they pulled this project off. I frankly was very pessimistic that this “recreation” was a possibility. I felt that I had been impossibly lucky in the first place and there was probably no way their luck would hold out as well. There were about a thousand things that could have gone wrong at any point along the way that would have killed the entire project. This was an heroic effort by Passion Pictures from London, PBS, BBC, and of course Jeff. And such lovely people -- all. I will always be grateful.
     
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I can't. But as long as I have the feeling that you understand me, and I also have the feeling that you understand that I have the feeling that you understand me (in short, I feel there is rapport between us), there seems to be no problem.

    And yes, I think that eventually, communication really does come down to those vague, hard-to-define feelings.
     

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