Do language and culture influence one’s sense and definition of color?

That is the question being asked when linguistic comparison is applied to names of colors. We find that some languages have more discretely defined colors than others. Some languages employ the use of clever modifiers like “light” and “dark” to augment a base color (light blue or dark green, for example). Other languages have specific names for these color variants. The Japanese language happens to go both ways. It’s possible to say light green or deep blue in a way similar to English, but instead of any instances of “light blue,” we find this color is characterized in Japanese as “watercolor” (mizuiro) or “water” (mizu). In English, we need to augment the blue with “light” to make “light blue,” or “sky” to come up with “sky blue,” but still these are not standalone colors of their own. There is also “azure,” which is commonly used to describe a blue sky, but this is simply taken from the Spanish word for blue, “azul.”

This small discrepancy in the assignment and perception of color from language to language is a subtle hint that culture and language can have an influence on the way we view the world. It’s not only colors, but even perception of time and space can be shaped by the way we use words and symbols to communicate ideas. For a colorful taste of this idea, we can have a look at some useful graphs for comparative analysis.