You say that if a language has a word for the color blue, it will almost certainly have a word for red, but not vice versa. What does this sort of asymmetry tell us about the perception of color?
First: not “almost certainly" but “certainly"—we don’t know of any exceptions to this rule. The initial conclusion of scholars in the nineteenth century was that this asymmetry reflects very recent biological improvements in color vision. It took a long time and a good deal of pain to come to terms with the realization that the development of color names reflects profound cultural changes, not anatomical ones. A large part of the book is spent trying to get to terms with the counterintuitive fact that the color distinctions we make are heavily influenced by cultural conventions and are not merely given to us by nature. The bottom line, very crudely, is this: People find a name for red before they develop a name for blue not because they can see the former before the latter, but because we find names for what we think is important to talk about, and red is more important in the life of people in all simpler cultures than blue.
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