Why do Many Languages not Have Either Blue or Green Words?

Many languages in the world don’t have the same colour vocabulary as English. These languages express blue and green colour under one term, ‘grue’. The latest research from nature shows that the variations result from UV-light incidents, the presence of water sources such as a lake, and cultural complexion.

The first factor is UV-light incidents. Earth has different UV-light exposure zone. As you move to the equator, the exposure is higher. From a sample of 142 populations, most language in the zone does not have a term for ‘blue’.

The higher the exposure, the communities that live there will have a different vision about the colour around them. For example, when you are in an area with a cold climate, everything will become bluish. However, when you are in a hot climate area, everything will feel yellowish. This colour filter is caused by different exposure to UV-light. Imagine the past community where they couldn’t freely move to another area due to limited transportation. The language that they created will be based on their vision that was shaping the current modern language.

The second factor is caused by the existence of a nearby body of water. Whenever there is a body of water such as a lake or sea, the languages have a higher chance of differentiating blue and green. The body of water caused a lush environment. The contrast of blue from the lake and the green from vegetation around it is possibly the cause for the vocabulary development. The community that lives in the dry region with an intense UV-light has a higher chance of only having the word ‘grue’ in their vocabulary.

The last is cultural complexity. The cultural factor is a result of the two factors above. When the community has seen more colour, they will interpret it in their cultural artifact. For example, their cloth will be colored green to represent plants or blue to represent the lake.

In conclusion, this research empirically answers why many languages have grue word. It eventually results from environmental factors. In short, the environment shapes the community, and the community is shaped by the environment.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store