When I knew about Major Mnemonic System, I thought: "Are there the languages that have writing systems consisting only numbers?" Do they exist?

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    'a writing system that consists only of numbers' is a strange wording for an assumption. Numerals (the characters for numbers), if that's all they are, are only that and not for writing other words. It's like asking if there are dogs that are called 'cats'. There very well may be, it would sound weird because a dog is not a cat even if the same word is used for both. Can the letters for pronunciation also be used for numbers? Of course. But if your symbols are only for numbers, you've already assumed yourself out of using them for something else.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 14:52
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    TigerTV, that doesn't sound like it would require an entire language, or even a numeric system like Ancient Greek. Just a substitution code. Or, forget words, use chunking.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 17:47
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    TigerTV, note that the 'memory palace' systems are in the end non-linguistic.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 19:22
  • Machine language?
    – Ignatius
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 11:18
  • @Taegyung, I thought about that, but it isn't useful to remember the sequence of numbers.
    – TigerTV.ru
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 19:16

2 Answers 2


1) The Major Mnemonic system isn't a language. It's just a coding system, but considering that to be a language, the binary codes fed to a computer is also a language and so on. 2) A language's purpose is to be able to convey thoughts. Thus such a language (which has just numbers) would only exist in a society where people just talk about numbers (which is obviously not possible) , not even mathematicians can talk just using numbers, because they have a "human" life to live which requires words/sounds to convey that meaning. 3) (a personal opinion) Number words came into a language , only after nouns or "object" words. One would have counted something only after she knew what is to be counted. Thus showing that other words "needed" to exist before numbers. And that the numbers aren't enough.

(P.S. this answer is to an older version of the question)

  • 1) Of course I know that Major Mnemonic System is not a language. 2) We can replace Japanese Kanji as example, by numbers, and read them as Kanji, define what would be noun, verb, adjective, adverb and so on. Do not look on numbers just as numbers. What if we change Japanese syllables on numbers? Do we get a new writing system? Do we get another language if we change those syllables on another? 3)Number are just symbols.
    – TigerTV.ru
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 14:51
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    2) if you replace wouldn't it be just coding it and not a new language Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:23
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    You asked about a "language", not a "writing system". Those are two very distinct things in linguistics. There does exist at least one writing system in common everyday use (i.e. excluding "codes") which is originally based on digits, plus diacritics for vowels: Thaana, used to write the Maldivian language.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:07
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    It completely changes the topic now Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:33
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    @WiccanKarnak the original question as stated was under-specified and, as we all agreed, basically wasn't a sensible question. If I had thought I was answering it as stated, I'd have given it as an answer, not as a comment. Instead, I commented on the related matter of writing, since in the first comment by the OP, an example precisely concerning the possibility of replacing symbols (kanji and kana) in a writing system (that of Japanese) with numbers was brought forward. Kana is phonemic, so that hypothetical example would be completely parallel to the actual one I provided of Thaana.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 17:09

I think you are using those terms a little loosely, and when you pin them down to the usual ideas they represent, that doesn't exactly make sense. But it does give a vague idea of what you're looking for.

A language is a communication device and, especially here on linguistics.SE, one between humans to communicate ideas. Then there are recording devices, like writing or codes, that map one thing into another which has certain properties, such as permanence and replicability, like writing, or efficiency and organization, like codes (Morse code, ASCII code, ).

Human languages have many possible recording technologies, one of which is writing. Usually these are linear codes that capture the pronunciation or meaning step by step over the course of an utterance. Human language communicate many concepts including numbers. If you had a writing system, you could possibly have writing elements that capture numbers, a small set of the concepts a human language wants to get across, but most of the elements of writing would probably represent better most other non-numerical concepts (like 'dog' or 'truth').

There are many writing systems for human languages and the ways they represent numbers is sometimes by having separate symbols for the numbers (that's the modern way), but in the past it is often by using existing symbols for other words or letters. But there are no natural writing systems that have symbols for numbers that are reused to represent phonology or concepts.

For example, Ancient Greek had no separate set of characters to represent numerals by themselves. It used the pronunciation letters, in its alphabetic ordering, to represent numerals as a secondary use. That is, alpha represented the digit that is written '1' in English, beta for '2', ... iota for '10' and so on.

So the basic Greek alphabet, used normally for pronunciation guide, could also be used for accounting/arithmetic.

But there is no natural writing system that starts off with numbers and these get reused for the rest of the natural language.

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    Modern Greek still does that, in limited contexts, much like other languages still use the Roman numerals in contexts involving ordinals.
    – LjL
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 21:18
  • @curiousdannii can you then explain what it is being asked?
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 3:51
  • @curiousdannii You've misunderstood the situation. The OP is asking for something incoherent. What could it possibly mean to have numbers as a writing system for a spoken language? The speech is only numbers? One seven three nineteen? That's clearly nonsense. So I answered with something that assumes coherence, something to do with numbers and writing and somehow them being the same. The OP is actually not even asking about this, but really about mnemonics for remembering numbers. So it's all irrelevant.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 4:14
  • @curiousdannii Since the literal question cannot be answered positively, I stretched the question and answered without the restriction of 'only'. And then the 'numbers' are really letters that do double duty as numerals. It is disingenuous yes, but adds information.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 4:17
  • Woah guys this is heating up, chill, @curiousdanii we can discuss this on the inactive chat :) Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 6:15

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