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Colour categories in a stone-age tribe

An Addendum to this article was published on 09 December 1999


The Dani of Irian Jaya are a stone-age Melanesian people who have provided an empirical basis for the study of cross-cultural perception and cognition1,2,3. Although they had only two terms for describing colour, the Dani memory for colour seemed to be much like that of modern English speakers. We have investigated another stone-age culture, the Berinmo of Papua New Guinea, for the way in which they categorize colours, but the results do not support the idea that colour categories could be universal.

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Figure 1: Distribution of English and Berinmo colour names.


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Davidoff, J., Davies, I. & Roberson, D. Colour categories in a stone-age tribe. Nature 398, 203–204 (1999).

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