In many languages, adjectives have some sort of noun-like inflection. In Latin (Indo-European) and Lingála (Bantu), just off the top of my head, adjectives are marked to agree with the nouns they modify, taking on that noun's gender and number.

In both of those languages, though, there's a curious feature about numbers: small numbers (1-3 in Latin, 1-5 in Lingála) show inflection, while large numbers (anything larger) do not.

Is this a common pattern (or even a "universal"), or just a coincidence that happened to happen in Indo-European and Bantu?

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    Have you looked at the Slavic system? (And Slavic is in many ways the most IE language family.) It either totally contradicts this assertion OR { mildly supports it IF we totally redefine small/large numbers and inflection}. Feb 16, 2019 at 9:40
  • The more robust assertion is that it's common for 0, 1 and dual/paucal to be special cases, and common for larger numbers to behave like plural, but not necessarily with a mathematical definition of larger. Feb 16, 2019 at 9:43
  • Also, in Latin not only the numbers from one to three are inflected but also the hundreds and thousands. Probably also the larger numbers (millions etc.) but I can only infer that from my knowledge of Spanish; my Latin lessons have been too long ago.
    – dumetrulo
    Feb 18, 2019 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


In French and Russian, numbers show inflection. So I doubt it's a universal.

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