Monday, June 15, 2015

Pink Thoughts. Or The Weak Version of the Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis

I've never liked pink.  I associate the color with lingonberry porridge which I hated as  a child, because I hate the sour taste of lingonberries.

In Finnish, the way I learned the language, the term for pink was "light red".  Just as there was a "light blue," there was a "light red."  In my mind the two concepts stood in exactly the same relationship to their "master" colors, red and blue:  They were lighter forms of those colors.  They were NOT colors on their own, just as "dark blue" is not a color on its own*.

So what difference does it make if our brains learn the concept of "pink," as a color in its own right or at least with its own clear name, or if our brains learn the concept of "vaaleanpunainen" or "light red?" 

And what happens when the latter case is complicated by the addition of a term deriving from the English pink (pinkki), which the above-linked website states as being only one of the many possible tones of "vaaleanpunainen," even though people colloquially use it to refer to all those tones?

Could it be that pink, as in "pinkki," now rises to a different type of prominence?  Above its previous mate "light blue?"

This is all both idle speculation and great fun.  I should add that I'm not a linguist and that my knowledge of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is negligible.  Still, all this may have implications in more serious matters, even political ones.

* That's probably a very subjective way of trying to define the feeling I have about pink as a color:  That in English it's on the same level as blue or lavender etc., whereas light blue is not on that level.