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"In Japan, people often refer to traffic lights as being blue in color."

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains -- A two-part essay about (part I) how perception of colors affects our naming of colors which (part II) affects our perception of colors. Guest celebrities include Darwin's children, xkcd, a mantis shrimp, and Benjamin Whorf.
posted by ardgedee on Jun 17, 2012 - 44 comments

one-ish, two-ish, lots

Sapir/Whorf raises its head again in study of the Piraha tribe. I can't stop thinking about this article which appeared in the Globe and Mail Friday.

A study appearing today in the journal Science reports that the hunter-gatherers seem to be the only group of humans known to have no concept of numbering and counting. Not only that, but adult Piraha apparently can't learn to count or understand the concept of numbers or numerals, even when they asked anthropologists to teach them and have been given basic math lessons for months at a time ... the Piraha are the only people known to have no distinct words for colours.
They have no written language, and no collective memory going back more than two generations. They don't sleep for more than two hours at a time during the night or day. Even when food is available, they frequently starve themselves and their children, Prof. Everett reports.
They communicate almost as much by singing, whistling and humming as by normal speech.
They frequently change their names, because they believe spirits regularly take them over and intrinsically change who they are.
They have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art.

Can any of our anthropologists or linguists comment? I had thought that narrative was the common link in all human cultures....
posted by jokeefe on Aug 21, 2004 - 61 comments

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