Ways of Discussing Colors (03-03-17)

Think that the ways that cultures discuss colors don’t change or that all cultures speak about the color spectrum in the same way?  Think again.  An article in the Journal of Vision, reports that an analysis of color terms used by modern Japanese speakers determined that they utilized  “the 11 basic color categories common to most modern industrialized cultures (red, green, blue, yellow, purple, pink, brown, orange, white, gray and black). . . . [as well as] mizu ("water")/light blue, hada ("skin tone")/peach, matcha ("ceremonial green tea")/yellow-green, oudo ("mud")/mustard, enji/maroon, yamabuki ("goldflower")/gold and cream. . . . Thirty years ago, a study of Japanese color categories . . . did not reveal mizu as a basic color category. . . . [and found] that kusa ("grass") was a very popular term for yellow-green . . . kusa has been largely replaced with matcha . . . . there is one tradition that has not changed over the past millennium: the mixed use of green and blue.”  A study of poems written prior to the 10th century indicates that historically “ao ("blue") was used to name both things that were clearly blue and also things that were clearly green; the same was true of midori ("green"). Even today, modern Japanese people refer to the color of the green traffic light, lush green leaves and green vegetables, as ao ("blue"). . . . in addition to distinct color terms for blue and green, modern Japanese has recently added a new intermediate color term "mizu" for lighter bluish and greenish samples.”

“The Evolution of Japanese Color Vocabulary Over the Past 30 Years.”  2017.  Press release, Tohoku University, http://www.tohoku.ac.jp/en/press/evolution_of_japanese_color_vocabulary.html