Given the decimal numerals we're all familiar with:


And given any number, for example:


Can we safely assume that in every language in the world where decimal numerals are not natively displayed, that we can swap each decimal numeral for a static character in these other languages?

This is for a translation system, so we're not interested in supporting extinct/historic languages.

  • What is a "static character"? This is not linguistics, this is computer science.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:13
  • @ColinFine I mean a constant char, as in any of the digits 0-9 will always be replaced with x regardless of where it appears in any number. I imagine there's a possibility that in some languages a digit will be displayed differently depending on it's position in the string or what comes before/after it, or the value of the number as a whole etc.
    – Tom Gullen
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:15
  • And what does it mean for a language to "be in base 10"? Do you mean that the numbering system used by speakers of that language is in base 10? That is very different from the notation system for numbers being the same as the one to which you're referring. Sep 4, 2015 at 14:17
  • @musicallinguist good point, it being in base 10 isn't important have removed it.
    – Tom Gullen
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:18
  • 1
    What you listed are not Latin digits, they are called Arabic or Indian digits.
    – Anixx
    Sep 4, 2015 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


No, you can't.


50: 五十 
1: 一 
51: 五十一 
100: 百 
1000: 千 
10000: 万

EDIT: In response to a request for further explanation...

Note that '50' is represented by two characters, and '1' is represented by one character (so far so good), but '51' is represented by a concatenation of '50' and '1', resulting in three characters and, thus, a non-one-to-one mapping from numerals to characters. In addition, each successive power of ten gets its own unique character, trivially resulting in several other non-one-to-one mappings.

  • Are these Chenese/Japanese characters actually digits rather than words for the numbers?
    – Anixx
    Sep 4, 2015 at 15:32
  • 1
    @fdb The question didn't ask about 'digits' in other languages. It asked about swapping Arabic digits for characters when digits "aren't natively displayed". It's for a translation program, so the program is going to have to handle cases like this. There are many instances in which these characters are used how digits are used in English texts. Sep 4, 2015 at 17:30
  • 2
    I don't know what "aren't natively displayed" means.
    – fdb
    Sep 4, 2015 at 17:36
  • 1
    @fdb Right; I guessed from context that it refers to when some other characters are used in contexts where English would use digits, like lists of prices, for example. If a Chinese text displayed prices of items using Hanzi, one would want the translation program to translate them into numeral notation in English, not spelled-out words. Sep 4, 2015 at 17:50
  • 1
    @robert OK, done. Sep 7, 2015 at 17:58

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