您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 文化 >> 正文

语言——改变你我眼中的色彩

更新时间:2018-5-3 20:46:33 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The words that change what colours we see
语言——改变你我眼中的色彩

The human eye can physically perceive millions of colours. But we don’t all recognise these colours in the same way.

人类的肉眼能感知上百万种色彩,却并非能一一辨别出来。

Some people can’t see differences in colours – so called colour blindness – due to a defect or absence of the cells in the retina that are sensitive to high levels of light: the cones. But the distribution and density of these cells also varies across people with ‘normal vision’, causing us all to experience the same colour in slightly different ways.

有些人无法分辨色彩间的差异,俗称色盲,因为他们的视网膜中缺乏一种对波长较长的光线十分敏感的视锥细胞。不过就算不是色盲,每个人看同一种颜色时也稍有区别,因为视锥细胞的分布和密度是因人而异的。

Besides our individual biological make up, colour perception is less about seeing what is actually out there and more about how our brain interprets colours to create something meaningful. The perception of colour mainly occurs inside our heads and so is subjective – and prone to personal experience.

除了这种个体生理上对颜色的修正,人类的色彩感知不仅仅是看清外部世界到底什么样,更是关乎我们的大脑如何阐释这些色彩,以对事物分门别类,赋予意义。色彩的概念主要出现在我们的脑海中,因而是主观的,能为个人经验所左右。

Take for instance people with synaesthesia, who are able to experience the perception of colour with letters and numbers. Synaesthesia is often described as a joining of the senses – where a person can see sounds or hear colours. But the colours they hear also differ from case to case.

以通感(神经科学中指一种感官刺激或认知途径会自发引起另一种感知或认识的现象)为例。有通感的人,看见字母或数字时能感受到色彩。也经常有人将通感描述为连觉(感觉连接),也就是有的人可以看到声音、听到颜色。不过他们所听到的颜色也是因个人而异。

Another example is the classic Adelson’s checker-shadow illusion. Here, although two marked squares are exactly the same colour, our brains don’t perceive them this way.

另一个例子十分经典——奥尔德森(Alderson)的方格阴影错觉。这张图里,虽然两个有标记的方块是同一个颜色,但我们的大脑却不这么想。

Since the day we were born we have learnt to categorise objects, colours, emotions, and pretty much everything meaningful using language. And although our eyes can perceive thousands of colours, the way we communicate about colour – and the way we use colour in our everyday lives – means we have to carve this huge variety up into identifiable, meaningful categories.

从生下来那天起,人们就开始学习用语言给物体、颜色、情绪,几乎所有有意义的事物分类。虽然我们的眼睛可以感知数以千计的颜色,但我们日常生活中使用语言、交流语言的方式,都意味着得把这一大堆颜色划分出可辨认、有意义的类别。

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.

就像画家和时尚达人用来指代和区分色调及明暗度的各种色彩术语,其实到了外行人那儿,可能就是同一个词。

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.

不同的语言和文化群体,划分色谱也截然不同。一些语言,比如如巴布亚新几内亚所说的丹尼语,利比里亚和塞拉利昂所说的巴萨语,颜色只有两个词,"暗"和"亮"。"暗"大致可译为其他语言中的冷色调,"亮"为暖色调。所以黑、蓝、绿等颜色可解释为冷色,而白、红、橙、黄等浅色调可解释为暖色。

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.

瓦尔皮里人生活在澳大利亚北部,这些土著的语言里甚至没有"颜色"一词。对于类似这种文化的人类群体而言,我们所谓的"颜色",他们是用各种指代材质、身体感觉和功能目的的词来描述。

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. 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”.

值得注意的是,世界上大多数语言都有五个基本颜色术语。从纳米比亚平原上的辛巴族,到巴布亚新几内亚苍翠繁茂的热带雨林中的伯因摩族,这些形形色色的文化,其色彩体系都由五个词组成。 除了暗、亮、红,这些语言通常都有一个表示黄色的词,一个表示蓝和绿的词。也就是说,这些语言没有单独表示"绿"或"蓝"的词,而是用同一个词来描述这两种颜色,即一种"蓝绿色"。

Historically, Welsh had a “grue” term, namely glas, as did Japanese and Chinese. Nowadays, in all these languages, the original grue term has been restricted to blue, and a separate green term is used. This is either developed from within the language – as is the case for Japanese – or through lexical borrowing, as is the case for Welsh.

历史上,英国威尔士有一个表示"蓝绿色"的词,叫"glas",日本和中国也有类似的词(中国这个词叫青色)。如今,这些语言中原本表示"蓝绿色"的词都只能表示蓝色,而用另外的词表示绿色。这要么是源自语言内部的变化发展,比如日本,要么是借用了外来词,如威尔士。

Russian, Greek, Turkish and many other languages also have two separate terms for blue – one referring exclusively to darker shades, and one referring to lighter shades.

俄语、希腊语、土耳其语和许多其他语言,都有两个不同的词来形容蓝色,一个专指深蓝,一个指浅蓝。

The way we perceive colours can also change during our lifetime. Greek speakers, who have two fundamental colour terms to describe light and dark blue (“ghalazio” and “ble”), are more prone to see these two colours as more similar after living for long periods of time in the UK. There, these two colours are described in English by the same fundamental colour term: blue.

人的一生中,对色彩的感知也会变化。说希腊语的人形容深蓝和浅蓝时有两个基本色彩词,"ghalazio"和"ble",不过若是长期住在英国,就会觉得这两个颜色趋于同色。因为在英语中,这两个颜色都基于同一个颜色词——蓝色。

This is because after long term everyday exposure to an English-speaking environment, the brain of native Greek speakers starts interpreting the colours “ghalazio” and “ble” as part of the same colour category.

长期生活在天天都讲英语的大环境中,以希腊语为母语的人大脑就开始将深蓝和浅蓝归纳为同一种色彩。

But this isn’t just something that happens with colour. In fact different languages can influence our perceptions in all areas of life. In our lab at Lancaster University we are investigating how the use of and exposure to different languages changes the way we perceive everyday objects. Ultimately, this happens because learning a new language is like giving our brain the ability to interpret the world differently – including the way we see and process colours.

事实上,语言的不同能影响到我们对生活中方方面面的感知,而不仅仅只有颜色。在英国兰卡斯特大学的实验室里,我们研究了使用和接触不同的语言,如何改变人们感知日常物体的方式。最后证明,学习一门新语言 ,像是赋予了大脑一种重新阐释世界的能力,包括我们如何看待和处理色彩。

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表