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不同语言命名颜色的普遍规律

The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

沃克斯观点
If I showed you this paint chip and asked you to tell me what color it is,
如果我给你看这张色卡并请你说出它的颜色
what would you say?
你会怎么说?
How about this one?
这张呢?
And this one?
还有这张呢?
You probably said blue, purple, and brown
你也许会说蓝色 紫色和棕色
but if your native language is Wobé from Côte d’Ivoire,
但如果你的母语是科特迪瓦的沃贝语
you probably would have used one word for all three.
你可能用一个词就表示了三种颜色
That’s because not all languages
那是因为 并非所有语言
have the same number of basic color categories.
都有同样数量的基本颜色种类
In English, we have 11.
英语里 我们有11种
Russian has 12,
俄语有12种
But some languages, like Wobé,
但有些语言 如沃贝语
only have 3.
只有3种
And researchers have found that
研究者发现
if a language only has 3 or 4 basic colors,
若一种语言只有三四种基本色
they can usually predict what those will be.
他们通常能预测出其他几种是什么颜色
So how do they do it?
他们是怎么做到的呢?
As you would expect, different languages have different words for colors.
如你所想 不同语言的颜色用词不同
But what interests researchers isn’t those simple translations.
但让研究者感兴趣的并非简单的翻译的问题
It’s the question of which colors get names at all.
而是到底哪些颜色能得到名字的问题
Because as much as we think of colors in categories,
尽管我们能想到无数种颜色
the truth is that color is a spectrum.
而事实上颜色是一个光谱
It’s not obvious why we should have a basic color term for this color,
很难解释为何我们对这个颜色有基本颜色词
but not this one.
而对这个却没有
And until the 1960s it was widely believed by anthropologists
直到20世纪60年代 人类学家还普遍认为
that cultures would just choose from the spectrum randomly.
各文化只是从光谱中随机选择颜色种类
But In 1969, two Berkeley researchers,
但1969年 两位伯克利研究者
Paul Kay and Brent Berlin,
保罗•凯和博伦特•柏林
published a book challenging that assumption.
出版了一本书来挑战这种假想
They had asked 20 people who spoke different languages to look at these 330 color chips
他们请20位讲不同语言的人看330张色卡
and categorize each of them by their basic color term.
并用他们的基本颜色词对色卡进行分类
And they found hints of a universal pattern:
他们发现一个普遍模式的线索:
If a language had six basic color words,
如果一种语言有6个基本颜色词
they were always for
它们总会是
black or dark,
黑色或深色
white or light,
白色或浅色
red, green, yellow, and blue.
红色 绿色 黄色 和蓝色
If it had four terms,
如果有4个词
they were for black, white, red,
则是黑色 白色 红色
and then either green or yellow.
以及绿色或黄色
If it had only three,
如果只有3个词
they were always for black, white, and red.
则总是黑色 白色和红色
It suggested that as languages develop,
这表明随着语言的发展
they create color names in a certain order.
颜色以某种次序命名
First black and white, then red,
先是黑色和白色 然后红色
then green and yellow, then blue,
然后绿色和黄色 然后蓝色
then others like brown,
然后其他颜色比如棕色
purple, pink, orange, and gray.
紫色 粉色 橙色和灰色
The theory was revolutionary.
这个理论是革命性的
[music change]
[音乐转变]
They weren’t the first researchers
他们不是最早的
interested in the question of how we name colors.
对我们如何命名颜色的问题感兴趣的研究者
In 1858, William Gladstone
1858年 威廉•格莱斯顿
who would later become a four-term British Prime Minister
一个后来担任了四任英国首相的人
published a book on the ancient Greek works of Homer.
出版了一本关于古希腊荷马著作的书
He was struck by the fact that
让他震惊的是
there weren’t many colors at all in the texts,
荷马著作中没有多少颜色
and when there were,
用到颜色时
Homer would use the same word
荷马用同一个词语
for “colours which, according to us, are essentially different.”
去表示“在我们看来 颜色 有本质区别”
He used the same word for purple
他使用“紫色”这个词
to describe blood, a dark cloud, a wave, and a rainbow,
来描述血 乌云 波浪和彩虹
and he referred to the sea as wine-looking.
还称大海似葡萄酒一样
Gladstone didn’t find any references to blue or orange at all.
格莱斯顿发现 荷马对蓝色和橙色丝毫没有提及
Some researchers took this and other ancient writings
一些研究者据此以及其他的古代著作
to wrongly spectulate that earlier societies were color blind.
错误地推断 早起社会是辨不清颜色的
Later in the 19th century, an anthropologist named W.H.R.Rivers
19世纪后期 有个叫W·H·R·Rivers的人类学家
went on an expedition to Papua New Guinea
他去巴布亚新几内亚探险时发现
where he found that some tribes only have words for red, white and black
有些部落只有描述红色 白色和黑色的词
while others had additional words for blue and green.
而其他部落还有描述蓝色和绿色的词
“An expedition to investigate the cultures on a remote group of islands
“他探险去往位于澳大利亚和新几内亚之间的
in the Torres Straits between Australia and New Guinea.
托雷斯海峡一片偏远群岛做文化考察
His brief was to investigate the mental characteristics of the islanders.
他的目的是调查岛上居民的心理特征
He claimed that the number of color terms in a population
他称一个族群所用颜色词语的数量
was related to their “intellectual and cultural development”.
与他们的“智力和文化发展”有关
And he used his findings to claim
他还根据自己的发现声称
that Papuans were less physically evolved than Europeans.
巴布亚人的身体进化不及欧洲人
Berlin and Kay didn’t make those racist claims,
柏林和凯没有发表这些种族主义言论
but their color hierarchy attracted a lot of criticism.
但他们的颜色层次理论遭到了很多批评
For one thing, critics pointed out that the study used a small sample size
一方面 批评指出 这项研究使用的样本量少
— 20 people, all of whom were bilingual English speakers,
抽样20人 且都是会双语的英语使用者
not monolingual native speakers.
而不是只会一种本地语言的人
And almost all the languages were from industrialized societies,
而且这些语言都来自工业化社会
hardly the best portrait of the entire world.
难以展现世界全貌
But it also had to do with defining what a “basic color term” is.
那个理论还需要处理基本颜色词的定义问题
In the Yele language in Papua New Guinea, for example,
例如 在巴布亚新几内亚的叶利语中
there are only basic color terms for black, white, and red.
只有黑色 白色和红色对应基本颜色词
But there’s a broad vocabulary of everyday objects
但叶利语有广泛的日常物体词汇
like the sky, ashes, and tree sap
用来比喻颜色
that are used as color comparisons
比如天空 灰烬和树脂
that cover almost all English color words.
它们几乎涵盖了英语中所有的颜色词汇
There are also languages like Hanunó’o from the Phillippines,
还有一些语言比如菲律宾的哈努努语
where a word can communicate both color and physical feeling.
表达颜色和生理感觉可以共用一个词
They have four basic terms to describe color,
菲律宾人有四种基本颜色词
but they’re on a spectrum of light versus dark,
但它们位于明对暗
strength versus weakness, and wetness versus dryness.
强对弱 湿对干的光谱中
Those kinds of languages don’t fit neatly into a color chip identification test.
那种语言无法在色卡识别测试中对号入座
But by the late 1970s,
但到20世纪70年代后期
Berlin and Kay had a response for the critics.
柏林和凯对那些批评做出了回应
They called it the World Color Survey.
他们称之为“世界颜色调查”
They conducted the same labeling test on
他们对2600多名本土语言使用者
over 2,600 native speakers,
进行了同样的标签测试
of 110 unwritten languages
受测者的语言是来自非工业化社会的
from nonindustrialized societies.
110种非书面语言
They found that with some tweaks, the color hierarchy still checked out.
他们发现 经过一些调整 色彩阶层理论依然成立
83% of the languages fit into the hierarchy.
83%的语言符合阶层理论

And when they averaged the centerpoint
当他们对每个受测者标记自己语言中
of where each speaker labeled each of their language’s colors,
颜色词位置的中心点求平均值时
they wound up with a sort of heat map.
他们最终得到了类似热力图的画面
Those clusters matched pretty closely to the English speakers’
那些群簇与这里标记的英语使用者的
averages which are labeled here.
平均位置非常贴近
Here’s how Paul Kay puts it:
以下是保罗•凯的说法:
“It just turns out that most languages make cuts in the same place.
“图表显示 大部分语言都在相同位置取色
Some languages make fewer cuts than others.”
一些语言取色少一些”
So these color stages are widespread throughout the world.
所以这些颜色阶层在全世界广为传播
but why?
但为什么呢?
Why would a word for red come before a word for blue?
为什么红色词比蓝色词出现得早?
Some have speculated
有人猜测
that the stages correspond to the salience of the color in the natural environment.
色彩阶层与颜色在自然环境中的显眼程度一致
Red is in blood and in dirt.
红色在血液和泥土中可见
Blue, on the other hand,
蓝色则不同
was fairly scarce before manufacturing.
它在工业化之前很少见
Recently cognitive science researchers have explored this question
最近 认知科学研究者通过电脑模拟
by running computer simulations of how language evolves
语言如何经由人们对话而进化
through conversations between people.
来探究这个问题
The simulations presented artificial agents
这个模拟是向多个智能电脑
with multiple colors at a time,
一次性展示多种颜色
and, through a series of simple negotiations,
经过一系列简单的交互协商
those agents developed shared labels for the different colors.
它们为不同颜色生成了共享标签
And the order in which those labels emerged:
那些标签出现的顺序是:
First, reddish tones,
先是红色基调
then green and yellow,
然后绿色和黄色
then blue, then orange.
而后蓝色 而后橙色
It matched the original stages pretty closely.
这和原本的色彩阶层近乎一致
And it suggests that there’s something about the colors themselves
而且它表明 颜色自身有某种特性
that leads to this hierarchy.
才使这种阶层结构得以出现
Red is fundamentally more distinct than the other colors.
红色根本上就比其他颜色更显眼
So what does all this mean?
那这一切意味着什么?
Why does it matter?
它为什么重要?
Well, it tells us that despite our many differences
它告诉我们 尽管我们不同的文化与社会间
across cultures and societies,
存在着许多的差异
there is something universal about how human is trying to make sense of the world.
人们尝试理解世界的方法却是有着共性的

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视频概述

你知道吗?不同语言里的颜色种类数量不一定相同,基本颜色词的命名方法也不一定相同。而且如果知道某种语言只有几种颜色词,研究者通常可以预测到是哪些,因为他们发现不同语言如何命名颜色是具有普遍规律的。这个规律是什么呢?

听录译者

收集自网络

翻译译者

Joanna.J

审核员

审核员 V

视频来源

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMqZR3pqMjg

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