Another example is the classic Adelson’s If I Get Campfire Drunk It’s Her Fault Shirt checker-shadow illusion. Here, although two marked squares are exactly the same colour, our brains don’t perceive them this way. As well as dark, light, and red, these languages typically have a term for yellow, and a term that denotes both blue and green. That is, these languages do not have separate terms for “green” and “blue” but use one term to describe both colours, a sort of “grue”.
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Since the day we were born we have. Painters and fashion experts, for example, use colour terminology to refer to and discriminate hues and shades that to all intents and purposes may all be described with one term by a non-expert. Remarkably, most of the world’s languages have five basic colour terms. Cultures as diverse as the Himba in the Namibian plains and the Berinmo in the lush rainforests of Papua New Guinea employ such five term systems.
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Different languages and cultural groups also carve up the colour spectrum differently. Some languages like Dani, spoken in Papua New Guinea, and Bassa, spoken in Liberia and Sierra Leone, only have two terms, dark and light. Dark roughly translates as cool in those languages, and light as warm. So colours like black, blue, and green are glossed as cool colours, while lighter colours like white, red, orange and yellow are glossed as warm colours.
The Warlpiri people living in Australia’s Northern Territory don’t even have a term for the word “colour”. For these and other such cultural groups, what we would call “colour” is described by a rich vocabulary referring to texture, physical sensation and functional purpose. The way we perceive colours If I Get Campfire Drunk It’s Her Fault Shirt can also change during our lifetime. Greek speakers, who have two fundamental colour terms to describe light and dark blue.