There's a term that, as far as I know, goes back to traditional Celtic grammar called "enumerators". These are essentially words that inflect for number in weird ways when preceded by a numeral, that are predominantly (but not solely) measure terms. For instance, Scottish reportedly disallows number marking for measure terms, meaning you can't say "three days", but rather "three day". Similarly, there are cases of nouns disallowing classifiers in classifier languages, which is presumably a similar phenomenon.

Two questions on this:

  1. Do your pet languages display this feature? That is, is there a class of nouns that do not display normal number marking / classifier cooccurrence patterns? I'm aware of Japanese, Bengali, perhaps Thai, perhaps Vietnamese, perhaps Burmese, Dutch, Irish, and Scottish.

  2. If so, are they only "measure terms", or do they extend to some weirder nouns?

A second, tangentially related question:

Are you familiar with any languages that have a syntactic mechanism for expressing a meaning like "approximately"? Specifically I'm looking for things that change the word order. I'm familiar that such a thing exists in Russian, where you can invert the order of the numeral and noun to mean approximately. So, "three cats" means what it means in English, but "cats three" means something like "approximately three cats". Furthermore, is there a limit to how high you can do this?

Ideally, I'd find a language that does both :)

  • 4
    I think it'd be better for you to ask the "tangentially related question" as a new question. You can do it, and actually it's far better because now, you'd receive an answer trying to cover everything, in the other case, you'd get two better answers.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 22:52
  • Would "enumerator" be another term for "quantifier" or do you think they would be separate concepts? Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 9:20
  • Georgian is a language which has plurals forms for nouns - but they must not used after numbers! So we say "three day" (sami dghe) and not "three days" (sami dghebi). Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 9:29
  • Your first question seems to be asking for a list. List questions are problematic here because there's no good way to mark only one answer as "correct". Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Italian has centinaio and migliaio, which respectively mean "about a hundred; hundreds (pl.)" and "about a thousand; thousands (pl.)" in the approximate sense. However it's not a productive affix.

The derivational process is a bit weird: noun (L. mille) -> adjective (L. milliarius) -> substantive adjective (back to a noun again).

EDIT: There's also decina "about ten".

  • the derivational process in what language, Latin or Italian?
    – Alex B.
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 18:40

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