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Hi. In the previous video, I've shown
that sentences in human language have two layers of meaning,
a semantic and a pragmatic meaning. In this video, I will introduce you
into some aspects of semantics. In particular, the meaning of words. Let's start with the meaning
of the word orange. Where exactly do we find orange? Well, it's somewhere around here. And native speakers will agree about that,
but there will not be an exact agreement. There's actually not a precise
definition of orange. We cannot just say,
orange is from here to here. It's more or
less from here to more or less here. This changes if we turn our attention
to other languages, and other cultures. For one thing, not all languages
even have a word for orange, or for green for that matter. So there are languages which
have just one word for this whole area, which we, in English,
would call green and blue. But they have just one word for that. There's languages which even have
just three different color names, something like white, something like black
and then typically something like red. So white, the whitish word would be
a word for all the clear colors. Black would be there for black and brown,
and in some languages also for green. And red would be for orange, and for
pink and for red itself, obviously. Now, interestingly those
languages can differ a little bit. I already said some languages would
think that green is a kind of black. In other languages,
green is actually a kind of red. What's true for colors probably also is
true for everything else in the world. Languages divide this world in different
ways, using different categories, and those categories are not
necessarily extremely precise. At the same time it has been claimed
that there is some structure to the way in which languages assign color names. It's not just divided randomly,
the rainbow. For instance, all languages seem to
distinguish between dark and light, between black and white, if you will. And then, if a language has
a further color term beyond dark and light, that is invariably red. And then, if there's a fourth term,
that's always either green or yellow. And then, if there's yet another color
term, that's again either green or yellow, depending on which
of the two is missing. And after this comes blue. It's probably not a coincidence that red,
green, blue and yellow are the basic colors in optics,
or in physics, for instance. It's probably also not a coincidence that this order is reflected in
the structure of the human eye. That we see red much more
easily than the other colors. And after this, again come green,
yellow, and blue. Now I have to say that the results
about these universals, the way I explained them just now,
have not been uncontested. There are some critics, who say that proponents of such
universals think in an ethnocentric way. They for instance take English or more generally western culture
to be the model of all cultures. And they would try to put humans in
different cultures in this western frame. And this is pervasive debate not just in discussions about semantics but
in many parts of linguistics. To what extent can we say that aspects
of human language are universal, so, recur in all languages? And if they are universal, are they given,
for instance, by human biology? And to what extent are languages
influenced by the surrounding culture, rather than being universal? To some extent, both things must be true. It must be true that partly,
part of this is universal. We can only name colors which
we can see with our eyes. At the same time,
it most also be partly cultural, because of the differences
between languages. Something similar is true about
the relation between language and thought, also this has caused a lot of heated
debate which is also still going on. In our particular case
the question could be, do people who speak a language
with relatively few color terms find it more difficult to
distinguish between different colors? So if you have only three words for colors
in your language, is it more difficult to distinguish between yellow and
green than if you have those words? Now very clearly you could
do an experiment about this. You could show people tiles
in different colors and you could ask them whether they
are the same color or different colors. The results of those
experiments are very mixed. On the one hand people who have no
different words for orange and red, still do see the difference
between orange and red tiles. On the other hand people who
do have words for orange and red, might have an advantage. For instance in some experiments, they might be slightly quicker
in taking the relevant decision. Now that in turn could also be
just a result of them being more experienced in making these distinctions
because that's what they do in their language all the time because
they have these different words. I think it's fair to say that this debate
just has not completely resolved yet. It's also about very deep things. Think about it. How is the world you see around you? How are the colors you see around
you affected by your language? Or by your culture? And, how is it just caused
by the fact that you are a human being and
you have the eyes you have. So in this video, we have seen that
even a relatively simple thing like color terms is actually
not all that simple. Languages can differ in that. And that may or may not affect the way we see the world,
in which we see languages. In the next video,
I'm going to talk to Marten and Inge more about
the semantics of color terms.

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