If you think that the three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow (or green), might you be looking at color through a culturally conditioned and incomplete lense? On the Language Hat blog is a post with a listing of some websites on the language of color (including this table at Omniglot), and the comment boxes include interesting points including this one by Maidhc:
There’s a problem in that [Omniglot’s] table, which is a belief that every language would have the same primary colours.
In actuality, it takes 3 values to define a colour. There are a number of different ways to define the three numbers. A common choice is hue, saturation, and brightness.
In English, colour names are primarily derived from hue. Hence light blue and dark blue are considered to be variations of the same colour.
In Irish, colour names have much more to do with saturation. “Glas” can mean a pale grey, green or blue. “Uaine” is a saturated green, and “gorm” is a saturated blue. Red like red hair is “rua” but red like blood is “dearg”.
(Somewhere I have a copy of a scholarly paper on this topic.)
You can see that in the Irish row in the table where they’re forced to sandwich in more than one term.
Given that colour names are ways of describing how a three-dimensional colour space could be chopped up into regions, it would seem to me that there are a whole lot of different ways it could be done. However I don’t know enough exotic languages to come up with further examples.
The idea that primary colors might vary from language to language is a new insight to me, and while I am a bit hesitant to chime in without reading more about Irish color names, the basic point seems intuitively valid.
Another issue with color names that I don’t see discussed on the aforementioned sites is the problem of defining color terms WITHIN the same language. Once color names step outside of the most common dozen or so, there is no universal agreement on what names correspond to which colors. Wikipedia’s completely unauthoritative table aside, the process of labeling a color is rather subjective.
Just taking reddish brown colors alone, you can find such names as Seashell, Sandy Brown, Raw Sienna, Chocolate, Cadmium Orange, Burnt Sienna, Salmon, Coral, Orange Red, Sepia, Coral, Burnt Umber, Tomato, Misty Rose, Rosy Brown, Indian Red, Brown, Firebrick, etc.,
Dictionaries with their self-referential definitions are of little use and often offer somewhat different interpretations. Here’s what a Google search in English for “define:Burnt Sienna” turns up:
reddish brown: a shade of brown with a tinge of red
a reddish-brown pigment produced by roasting sienna
Burnt sienna is an iron oxide pigment: a warm mid brown color. Chemically, burnt sienna is formed by burning raw sienna (Terra di Sienna).
a dark reddish brown colour, like that of roasted sienna; of a dark reddish brown colour, like that of roasted sienna
There are few places more striking to investigate than color when looking at the cultural construction of reality.