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20 votes
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Do any languages mention the top limit of a range first?

In German, I am aware of two instances where the "reverse" order is used: 1) The weather forecast of the newscast "Tagesschau" (and quite possibly many other weather forecasts, but not all) always ...
Hans-Jakob's user avatar
15 votes
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Why did Japanese borrow words for simple numbers from Chinese?

Besides prestige reasons, there is also the fact that the Old Japanese numeral systems can be seen as inconvenient, especially for higher numbers. Disadvantages compared to the Chinese system are: ...
Dodezv's user avatar
  • 411
12 votes

Is there any language with number system that uses subtraction? (Other than Ainu)

The Yoruba language has a rather elaborate vigesimal (base-20) numeral system that involves both addition and subtraction and multiplication. There are words for each of the decades; units in 1–4 are ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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12 votes

Why did Japanese borrow words for simple numbers from Chinese?

The reason is similar to the reason why English has borrowed (French) words for beef, pork, mutton even though there are Germanic words for cows, swine and sheep. There is a tendency to borrow words ...
user6726's user avatar
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11 votes
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Is it possible that a language's number system is inherently wrong?

I don't think a number system can be inherently wrong any more than gravity can be wrong; but a system can be confusing from a historical perspective. Numbers seems to be highly subject to reanalyses. ...
user6726's user avatar
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10 votes

Could you point out some theories on how the names for numbers developed?

The following theories that try to explain the origin of Proto-Indo-European numerals are mentioned in J. P. Mallory, D. Q. Adams, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-...
J. Siebeneichler's user avatar
9 votes

Do any languages mention the top limit of a range first?

There are, presumably in all languages, situations where the top limit is mentioned first. For example, we may talk about "between 10 and 20 metres below sea level". So this seems to be primarily a ...
Keelan's user avatar
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9 votes

Is it possible that a language's number system is inherently wrong?

There are examples like this, and we all use that example every day. Look how Arabic digits look like, compared to Devanagari, Gujarati, and other Indic scripts. "૫ ૬ ૭ ૮" are "5 6 7 8" ...
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
9 votes
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Why is six and seven so similar in many languages?

Indeed, as has been pointed out in the comments, the reason these words look alike is because most of those languages are related, descended from a common ancestor. Languages change over time, and ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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8 votes
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Is there any language with number system that uses subtraction? (Other than Ainu)

It's somewhat curious that both the Roman calendar and the Roman numerals used subtraction quite extensively; for neither is there any modern equivalent. For example, even the Advent sundays (which ...
John Frazer's user avatar
7 votes

How did Proto-Indo-European *septm evolve into English "seven"?

The excellent German etymological dictionary by Pfeiffer has this: sieben Num. Ahd. sibun (8. Jh.), mhd. siben (md. siven), asächs. siҍun, mnd. sēven, sȫven, mnl. sēven, nl. zeven, aengl. seofon, ...
fdb's user avatar
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7 votes
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Language for which there is no suppletion for : first-one, premier-un. And the Hebrew case

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 ...
Keelan's user avatar
  • 4,221
5 votes

Languages where numbers are read out in a mixed-up fashion

Arabic: 1984 could be read as "one thousand and nine hundred and four and eighty" (the modern reading) or "four and eighty and nine hundred and one thousand" (traditional). I have heard the latter ...
mobileink's user avatar
  • 437
5 votes

Why do different languages have different amounts of unique words for numbers between 10 and 20?

In Chinese number names, and both Korean number systems, the numbers follow strict base 10 representations: the name for any number from 11-19 is the name for 10 plus the name for the unit value. e.g....
iacobo's user avatar
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5 votes

Is saying or typing "one-hundred and twenty two" using Arabic numbers?

Absolutely nothing to do with it. We say numbers the way we do in English because that's how they've developed in English. (Variants, such as ''three score'' or ''five and twenty'' exist, but are ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
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5 votes

Why did Japanese borrow words for simple numbers from Chinese?

They are pronounced that way, before the importing of the Chinese characters, and even to this day: ひとつ、ふたつ、みっつ、よっつ、いつつ、むっつ、ななつ、やっつ、ここのつ、とお. There even is the shortened way of counting: ひ、ふ、み、よ、い、む、な、...
Jimmy's user avatar
  • 159
5 votes

The first multi-syllabic positive integer

You can perhaps answer this question to some degree of certainty using this defunct resource, preserved by the Internet Archive: Numeral Systems of the World's Languages. It contains IPA ...
jogloran's user avatar
  • 5,143
4 votes
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Was 1 considered a number under older meanings of number?

I agree that “a number of friends” means “two or more friends”, though one could be pedantic and insist that “one” and “zero” are also numbers. As a matter of fact, the bible of ancient and mediaeval ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.3k
4 votes

Do any languages mention the top limit of a range first?

In Japanese, you often have this construct as well. An example is "100分の1is" one of 100 parts (lit: 100 parts and 1) for fractions. You tend to bound problem as well when you are speaking in regard ...
b degnan's user avatar
  • 171
4 votes

Are there any languages where numbers have cases?

Yes, there are. Finnish is one of such languages and especially interesting in that in complex numbers, all individual numerals are declined: Matkust-i-n kolme-en maa-han. travel-IPF-1SG ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
4 votes

Order of spoken numbers with respect to powers of the base of the numerical system

An example of how the spoken numerals influenced the way they were written numerically is the Slavic languages and their Cyrillic alphabet. Since Cyrillic is derived from the Greek alphabet, it also ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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4 votes
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Lingustics Problem about Breton Number System

The data which is the base for the problem (plus experience with many other languages) tells you that big numbers are often combinations like "five tens" i.e. 5x10. The similarity in form ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
4 votes

Why do languages seem to lose the dual number in particular?

I agree with the other answer but want to add two things. First, this is part of Greenberg's universal 34: No language has a trial number unless it has a dual. No language has a dual unless it has a ...
Keelan's user avatar
  • 4,221
3 votes

Pahlavi and Parthian numerals

They are related scripts historically used for related languages, which also used other writing systems. Both used the levantine number system, described in detail in the fantastic book/thesis by ...
Frédéric Grosshans's user avatar
3 votes

Word for eighteen expressed as Twenty Minus Two

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. ...
WiccanKarnak's user avatar
  • 1,251
3 votes

Which modern, spoken languages do not use the decimal number system?

By "modern" do you mean a language that's still spoken by living people nowadays? The most unusual modern example is the Telefol and Oksapmin languages, which use a base-27 counting system ...
Lưu Vĩnh Phúc's user avatar
3 votes

Two and Three; Four and Five; Six and Seven are paired by their first letters T, F, S

Urdu/Hindi/Hindustani have no such pairings: Aik Du Teen Char Panch Chay Sath Aath Nau Dass English names of these numbers just happen to have same starting alphabet but the pronunciation is clearly ...
Rizvim's user avatar
  • 111
3 votes

What kind of a word class are numbers?

It seems in English, numbers can be adjectives, determiners, and nouns. (Though I feel the nouns are really just adjectives that have an implied noun.) Types of numbers Ordinals: first, second... ...
Ilana Signal's user avatar
3 votes

Do any languages mention the top limit of a range first?

I'm not sure whether this should be an answer, since it's not about numerical ranges, but there are definitely certain idioms in English that seem to put the "greater" extreme first, such as: high ...
Joshua Taylor's user avatar
3 votes

How did the complexities of Arabic cardinals arise?

The system of gender polarity is broadly identical in all ancient Semitic languages, such as Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic and Geez. It is not an Arabic innovation. The origin of it is shrouded in the ...
fdb's user avatar
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