بحث با Marten و Inge: رنگ و برف

 
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Hi, in the previous video
we talked about semantics, we talked about the semantics
of color terms. And I've talked a little bit about the
fact that although old people presumably have the same eyes, and therefore they
see the same colors unless they are for instance colorblind, they may give
different names to those colors. And in particular some languages would
have only three different color terms, and those would be something like dark,
something like light, and something like red. In this video we are going to discuss
this a little bit more with my students Martin and Ingrid. >> Yes, so I've been thinking about
these color terms and I was wondering if some languages only have three color
terms, how does this relate to English? How many color terms does English have? >> Well,
can you answer the question yourself? How many color terms does English have? >> To me it seems a difficult
question to answer, to be honest. Because what do you do with
words like salmon or light blue? >> Yeah, right. Well, I think that's actually spot on. So you initially you might think,
well, the color terms of English, they are red, orange, yellow, green, blue,
and purple, and maybe one or two others. These are sometimes called
the basic color terms. But then indeed some speakers will have
more than just these very few color terms. So if you are a painter, if you otherwise
work with a lot of colors in your work, well, you may know many
different color terms. And you may even know what they mean. So I know the color term
mauve in English and I have no idea what it actually refers to,
even though I'm not colorblind. So it's actually too simple to say
English has so many color terms. There are many,
many different speakers of English, and they may have more or
less interesting colors. They may have more or
less interest in colors expertise, all these kinds of things,
and they all count. So you would have to count the number of
color terms for an individual speaker. And that's even true for
something like light blue and dark blue. Are they two different words? Well, it depends a little bit on
how much expertise you have and how easy it is for
you to recognize those different words. >> In fact, this reminds me of
something I heard somebody say. Somebody told me that the Inuit have like
a hundred terms, a hundred words for snow. >> [LAUGH] Right, yeah. This is a very famous story. It's actually hotly debated by linguists. So you'll read this in the newspaper. I think you can read this in,
if you follow enough newspapers, you can read this in the newspaper
at least once a week. That the Inuit have 100 words for snow. The only difference is sometimes you
read they have 200 words for snow or 50 words for snow or 150 words for snow. They have many words for snow. It's actually not completely
clear what that means. In the first place,
there's many different languages or dialects of languages
which are spoken by Inuit. And they probably also each have their
own different kind of number of words. But some linguists have
gone to dictionaries and found just only about three or four different words for
different kinds of snow. So again, to some extent,
I think it's very intriguing this, you can see that it's just not clear. It seems very easy to count something
like the number of words to describe a certain concept. But if you look at it in detail in any
given language, it's not that simple. And that's because the boundaries
between individual objects are never really simple. >> So but then surely, I mean,
colors, that's a spectrum, and I can see how you can divide
that up in different ways, and even something like whether, I can see
that in different places in the world. It may be more salient, it may be more
important to distinguish between different types of snow or different types
of rain or sunshine, for example. But there are things of which it seems
very clear that this is the thing and this is its name. >> Like what? >> Well, so I brought with me my book. Now, it's very clear
that this is a book and I don't think we have
to quarrel about this. I mean, this is a book. >> I'm not going to quarrel with you. But actually I think still it's not so
clear why this is a book. So for instance,
could you give a definition of a book? What would be your definition of a book? >> So I would say probably
that it is an object and that there are words in it written
by someone or more people, and that the words are a description or
that they tell a story. >> Like a magazine. >> [LAUGH]
>> [LAUGH] Yes, okay. So there's a difference, of course. But yeah, so you'd have to revise
the definition to exclude magazines. >> All right. >> And the newspapers of course. >> Right, and then,
is it necessarily an object? So nowadays you can have electronic books
which are not really objects either, right? >> That's true. >> And then you think, okay, well, we're
going to revise it again and again and again. And the problem is,
if you try to do it every time, you can find some kind of counter example. Actually, I would urge you to do that. So to just find some everyday
very simple objects and try to describe them and go to the forum
and discuss it with each other. Try to find holes in the definitions of these everyday objects
you find around you. And I guarantee you, you always will. It's actually, it's mysterious,
it's very interesting. Why is that the case? We don't really know, right? So why is it the case that we
can't make real definitions? It's different from scientific terms. So for scientific purely scientific terms,
we can make definitions. That's where we can be very precise. But in our everyday language is not
just that we don't use definitions or we don't know the definitions, it seems
almost impossible to do the definitions. Here we have actually reached something
which is not a miracle of human language, but I would say a mystery
of human language. And there's another dimension to that,
and that's a term like this, a term like a book. This is a book, this is what happens
to be a novel written by Italo Calvino, an Italian Nobel Prize winner. Okay, that's one dimension of it. So that's a book written by somebody. It's also a physical object, as you said. So it's a physical object, which has
the properties of a physical object. It has a certain size,
it weighs about 200 grams. Now I can say in one sentence, I can say Italo Calvino's
novel ways about 200 grams. And if you think about it,
that's actually very strange, is very strange that you
can say such a thing. Because what Italo Calvino wrote,
what he wrote was just some words, is completely an abstract thing that
doesn't have any weight to begin with. So if you say this thing, Italo Calvino's
book weighs about 200 grams, you're using the word book in two slightly
different senses at the same time. And that's another thing which
many words seem to have in common. It's not just that they have a vague
meaning, but the meaning can shift very easily, and you co can go back and
forth between one thing and the next. That's something which word
meaning has in common. Again, I believe from all the topics
we are discussing in this MOOC, word semantics is still the most
mysterious for scholarship. There's many things we
have discovered about it. There's many things we know about it. But there's also many things
we just don't understand. We just don't see how people work with it. In this video we've seen there's many
problems connected to word meaning. In the first place,
it turns out to be almost impossible to count the number of color terms for
English. It depends on the speaker. It depends on what exactly we
consider to be a color term. In the second place,
it turns out that even for objects, which at first sight seem
to be completely obvious, like a book,
it's impossible to give a definition. And more generally, I have claimed
we cannot give definitions for any of the words of
the non-scientific terms we use. If you're still not convinced
try to define the term red. Imagine you have a friend who's
colorblind, who doesn't see the color red, try to define it. How can you say in words
what red really is? You will not be able to do it. Word meaning is definitely one of
the most interesting topics for many people in human language. It's also still one of
the most mysterious ones. In the next video we're going to look at
the other layer of meaning we have seen, which is pragmatics. We're going to discuss how, on top of
this ordinary meaning of words and sentences, we can determine
a meaning which is dependent on the context in which words and
sentences are used.

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