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LINGUIST List 19.3405

Fri Nov 07 2008

Qs: Languages Having Few Number Words

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        1.    Pierre Pica, Languages Having Few Number Words

Message 1: Languages Having Few Number Words
Date: 07-Nov-2008
From: Pierre Pica <picamsh-paris.fr>
Subject: Languages Having Few Number Words
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Dear Colleagues

I would be interested in knowing the scope of languages having few number
words, as described, among others, by Pica P., Lemer C., Izard V.,
Dehaene, S. Exact and approximate arithmetic in an amazonian indigenous group
Science (2004) 306, 499-503 (see also Gordon, P. (2004). Numerical
cognition without words: Evidence from amazonia. Science, 306, 496-499).

The aim of this first Survey is to make a list of such languages and
understand under which conditions such languages do develop and how many
few numbers systems are attested (e.g no number, 1-2, 1-3, 1-5, etc).

Also of interest is the question of knowing the syntax and morphology of
these number systems, e.g. whether they do make reference to phonological
processes (or not), such as tones or reduplication, and/or reference to
body parts of some kind.

Examples with glosses would be appreciated (as well as references bearing
on the matter).

It would be nice to know whether these languages correspond (or not) to
societies with poor access to technologies and whether number words in these
languages are always express approximative quantities.

While this is only one question that any linguist might want to address, I
would in particular be interested in knowing whether these languages only
have a collective plural, and how is quantification expressed in such
languages (and whether quantification is limited in some ways).

I shall post a summary on the list.

Pierre Pica
Pierre Pica UMR 7023 – CNRS Paris

Linguistic Field(s): Typology

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