Back in the 1960s a model of color vision propounded by the late Russell L. De Valois, a Berkeley psychologist, had been interpreted as establishing that the categories red, yellow, green and blue were hardwired into the brain. That interpretation, however, fell apart after the model failed to predict the mix of frequencies that the eye perceives as “pure” colors (for instance, the model did not explain why the reddest-looking red contains a touch of blue). That left no physiological rationale for color categories. A more recent theory attributes universals in color vocabularies to the way the world is colored–that is, to the natural distribution of wavelengths. –Phillip E. Ross interviews linguistics professors.
–Draining the Language out of Color (Scientific American)