Color and linguistics

10, April 2014 § Leave a comment

russell barlow

Six years ago Russell Barlow came to Paros to tutor Gabriel Pack.  They read all the Greek plays and all of Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides as well as most of the extant Greek literature.  Russell taught Gabriel drums,  they memorized the countries and their capitals.  It was a successful year for both of them.

Russell returned for a few days last week coming from Germany where he is studying on a Fulbright. He spoke to students and faculty last Monday night at the Center about linguistics, its various areas of study and a bit of its history.  In a humorous and charming talk he presented the quirkiness of language, its impact on our thought processes and the debates that surround that idea. We were all asked to participate and interact with the information so the room was lively and noisy as we tried out sounds and sentences. He talked about pragmatics, morphology,  semantics, phonology, and syntax among others.

The study of names of colors has played a large part in the investigation into the nuances of language formulation in the brain. Russell sparked a spirited debate when he spoke about the three primary colors as the photographers and the painters in the room each tried to dominate the argument (we have a running debate between the two groups). Russell offered us a middle path, suggesting the pairs red and green, blue and yellow. He suggests that true color perception lies between the overlaps of our capacity to read chroma.

We all enjoyed this glimpse into the linguistic mind and Russell’s evident enthusiasm for his subject. He will go on to do a doctorate in linguistics next fall in Hawaii.

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