2

Are there languages for which the word "first" is built with the word "one" ? In many languages I know there exists a suppletion :

  • English : first-one
  • French : premier-un
  • Latin : primus-unus
  • Hebrew : ראשון-אחד

In Hebrew particularly, it is interesting that in the Bible one finds אחד with also a meaning of first : יום אחד (Gen 1), באחד לחודש (Deut 1).

So do you know languages for which there is no suppletion for 1-1st ?

And in particular do you know a theory for this particular suppletion, or any article about it ?

Thx

  • 1
    Note that the French example descends directly from the Latin one. – Draconis Oct 11 '20 at 23:41
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    Would you count count (a) languages that have both a suppletive and a derived form (e.g., Irish aonú ‘oneth’, céad ‘first’), and (b) languages that don’t have morphological ordinals at all (e.g., Mandarin 一 ‘one’, 第一 dì yī ‘number one, first’)? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 12 '20 at 8:20
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According to Barbiers (2007: 'Indefinite numerals one and many and the cause of ordinal suppletion', Lingua 117), suppletion between the cardinal and ordinal numerals of 1 is frequent, and he gives an explanation why one is special and incompatible with the standard derivation of ordinals (which I cannot explain in detail). He also gives references that may be interesting to you:

  • Hurford, J., 1987. Language and Number. The Emergence of a Cognitive System. Blackwell, Oxford.
  • Veselinova, L., 1998. Suppletion in the derivation of ordinal numerals. A case study. MITWPL 31.

But according to WALS, feature 53A, this is not a universal: 3 (out of 321) languages have ordinals 1/2/3 identical to cardinal numbers; 41 have regular derivation for these ordinals (among these Mandarin, on which see Janus Bahs Jacquet's comment). I would add that Esperanto has a regular derivation as well, but that's cheating.

With regards to your Biblical Hebrew examples:

  • The first (yōm 'eḥād "day one") also exists in English: day(/bus/candidate/room) one. I think we should analyse that as N-to-D raising of day and assume that one and first are allomorphs.

  • The second (bə'eḥād laḥodeš "on one to-the-month") exists in Dutch: op één november ("on the first of November"). Marijke de Belder (2007: 'Silence and the Construct State in Dutch Date Expressions', Linguistics in the Netherlands 2007) analyses this with a silent noun dag "day" and a construct state: één dag november, with the silent noun raised to D (explaining this ungrammaticality: (*de) één november). In this analysis it is the same as English day one, the only difference being that the noun is silent.

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    Notice that L. Veselinova is also co-author of the WALS article. She is a specialist on suppletion. – jlawler Oct 12 '20 at 18:33
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    Yes, her publications list contains several items that may be of interest. – Keelan Oct 12 '20 at 19:43

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