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Colour is a matter of words

WHEN IT comes to colourful language, members of the Berinmo tribe have a strange way with words.

The hunter-gatherers from the upper reaches of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea do not distinguish between blue and green but their language contains a sharp contrast between two hues of yellow, "nol" and "wol" not found in English.

Scientists from Goldsmiths College in London, compared the way the Berinmo perceived colours compared to a sample group of English speakers. The Berinmo were better able topick a colour from a choice of hues around the "nol-wol" boundary than around the blue-green boundary. A comparison group of English speakers showed the reverse tendency.

Writing in the journal Nature yesterday the scientists said: "Our results from these experiments are consistent with there being a considerable degree of linguistic influence on colour categorisation."