8

Other than Latin, are there any languages that have a word for the number 18 that means twenty minus two?

A quick glance at some of the numeral systems of languages in the Indo-European reveal that 20 - 1 is common and there are some 30 - 1 words.

But I only know of 20 - 2 in Latin (duodeviginti).

  • Chan's list should be treated as just a sample, and not an extensive list of number-words, probably for any language. Hindi, for example, goes way beyond 30-1, but those numbers are not listed there. – prash Oct 13 '12 at 2:34
8

There is a paper that gives an overview of the additive, subtractive and multiplicative derivations of number-words as used in the three dialects of Yoruba.

I'll quote a few things here, but the number system is far too complicated, and needs the paper I linked to to describe it.

In the first pattern, it uses addition solely to derive the number words but with a counting pattern where 'ten', 'twenty' and the added number units are taken as a whole. In the second counting pattern, subtraction is used to derive number words but this is applicable only to three numbers i. e. seventeen – /mɛ́ɛtadínóɡu/, eighteen – /méèʤìdínóɡu/ and nineteen – /mɔkɔdínóɡ́u/.

In addition

Most importantly, the idea expressed in [Standard Yoruba] and [Yoruba Ifè Nigeria] ... is 1 + 10, 2 + 10, 3 + 10, 4 + 10 for eleven to fourteen; and 20 - 5, 20 - 4, 20 - 3, 20 - 2, 20 - 1 for fifteen to nineteen; twenty (ogún) is a basic word.

The paper also compares the preferences of the older and newer generations of people when it comes to specific numbers.

  • 1
    thanks for that, prash! subtractives from 20 to 15 and 30, 40 etc certainly covers my question. it would be interesting to see a Togo/Yoruba abacus. – SPA Oct 19 '12 at 22:17
6

The Salishan languages Bella Coola (Nuxálk) [Denzer-King, pre-publication[PDF] and 2009[PDF]] has "subtractive counting" for 3, 8 and 9:

1 smaw
2 ɬnus
3 ʔa-smús ‘being next to + 4’
4 smús
...
8 kʼi-ɬnus ‘lacking or without 2’
9 kʼi-smaw ‘lacking or without 1’
10 cʼklakt

Some sources give 18 as not subtractive, but others have 18 as subtractive:
18 smawlakt-nus ‘11+7’
18 cʼklakt puƛʼs ʔa kʼiɬnus ‘10+lacking 2’

3

Ainu is one of those: (http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/ts/language/number/ainu.html)

1   sinep        1 obj.
2   tup          2 obj.
3   rep          3 obj.
4   inep         4 obj.
5   asiknep      5 obj.
6   iwanpe       6 obj.
7   arwanpe      7 obj.
8   tupesanpe    2 obj. to 10* obj.
9   sinepesanpe  1 obj. to 10* obj.
10  wanpe        10 obj. 
1

I don't know any off the top of my head, but Eugene S. L. Chan has a large number of languages for which he has collected basic numeral terms:

http://lingweb.eva.mpg.de/numeral/

  • Yes, that's where I started to look, but then thought it might be quicker to ask here. – SPA Oct 12 '12 at 8:29
  • Janko Gorenc collects numbers but only up to ten IIRC. – kaleissin Oct 12 '12 at 8:46
  • Sigh, the link has gone stale. Is the resource available fron another place? – jknappen - Reinstate Monica May 12 '17 at 10:25

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