Here is a post for all my linguistic folk.
Today during my language lesson I learned–besides how to say various parts of the body (the most fun word of the day was certainly “cheeks” mugugu)–that Chuwabo only has three color terms!
The number of basic color words varies between languages, but follows a very systematic pattern. For languages with only two color words, they will always be white and black (or more precisely, light and dark). Red is always the third color term. The next are yellow, blue and green, which can appear in any order. Finally, some languages employ specific terms for purple, orange, pink, brown and gray. This hierarchy holds true the whole world over.
The fact that some languages make more divisions between colors has been used in support of the Whorf Hypothesis. This theory proposes that language determines or influences our thoughts, cognitive processes and perception of the world. It has been thoroughly debunked that speakers of languages with fewer color terms cannot distinguish between colors. And even without true color terms speakers find ways to describe their environment by using well-known objects. For example, the Chuwabo people denote orange by saying it has the “color of saffron.”
In my university days I could have barely managed to name a language with only three color terms, and now I am learning one! Life is full of unexpected thrills.
Coral, lavender, auburn, royal blue, goldenrod, fire-engine red, eggshell, turquoise, magenta, plum, maroon, fuscia. We have such an abundance of shades coloring our world!