LINGUIST List 6.953

Sat Jul 8 1995

Disc: Non-decimal systems

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <aristartam2000.tamu.edu>


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  1. Adams Bodomo, Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems

Message 1: Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems

Date: Thu, 06 Jul 1995 23:41:02 Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems
From: Adams Bodomo <bodomoCsli.Stanford.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems

The Fulfulde language of West Africa is based on fives.
So you have separate words for one through five, from then on:
5+1 for six, then 5+2, 5+3, 5+4. But there is a word for ten:
'sappo' which indicates putting both sets of fingers together.
Then we get 10+1 .... 10+5+4, then a separate word for twenty.....


I wish to contribute to this topic of discussion with Dagaare data.
Dagaare is a West African language (Gur family) spoken in Ghana and
Burkina Faso. I provide below salient aspects of the Dagaare system of
numerals. As can be seen it is basically a decimal system (based on
10) but it is also, to some extent, based on 20. Forty in Dagaare is
two 20's, sixty is three 20's and, like French, eighty is four 20's.
Hundred has its own name but some speakers still insist on calling it
five 20's. All this shown below.

4. Dagaare Numerals

+human count -human count
Nenyeni -yeni 1 Bonyeni
Bayi -yi 2 Ayi
Bata -ta 3 Ata
Banaare -naare 4 Anaare
Banuu -nuu 5 Anuu
BayoOo -yoOo 6 AyoOo
BayOpoi -yOpoi 7 AyOpoi
Banii -nii 8 Anii
Bawae -wae 9 Awae
(Noba) pie 10 (Boma) pie
(Noba) pie ne yeni 11 (Boma) pie ne yeni
Pie ne bayi 12 Pie ne ayi
. .
. .
Pie ne bawae 19 Pie ne awae
(Noba) lezare 20 (Boma) lezare
Lezare ne yeni 21 Lezare ne yeni
Lezare ne bayi 22 Lezare ne ayi
. .
. .
Lezare ne bawae 29 Lezare ne awae
(Noba) lezare ne pie 30 (Boma) lezare ne pie
Lezare ne pie ne yeni 31 Lezare ne pie ne yeni
Lezare ne pie ne bayi 32 Lezare ne pie ne ayi
. .
. .
(Noba) lezaE ayi 40 (Boma) lezaE
ayi
LezaE ayi ne yeni 41 LezaE ayi ne
yeni
LezaE ayi ne bayi 42 LezaE ayi ne
ayi
. .
. .
LezaE ayi ne pie 50 LezaE ayi ne
pie
LezaE ayi ne pie ne yeni 51 LezaE ayi ne
pie ne yeni
LezaE ayi ne pie ne bayi 52 LezaE ayi ne
pie ne ayi
. .
. .
(Noba) lezaE ata 60 (Boma) lezaE
ata
LezaE ata ne yeni 61 LezaE ata ne
yeni
LezaE ata ne bayi 62 LezaE ata ne
ayi
. .
. .
(Noba) lezaE ata ne pie 70 (Boma) lezaE ata ne
pie
LezaE ata ne pie ne yeni 71 LezaE ata ne
pie ne yeni
LezaE ata ne pie ne bayi 72 lezaE ata ne
pie ne ayi
. .
. .
(Noba) lezaE anaare 80 (Boma) lezaE anaare
LezaE anaare ne yeni 81 LezaE anaare ne yeni
LezaE anaare ne bayi 82 LezaE anaare ne ayi
. .
. .
(Noba) lezaE anaare ne pie 90 (Boma) lezaE anaare ne
pie
LezaE anaare ne pie ne yeni 91 LezaE anaare ne pie ne
yeni
LezaE anaare ne pie ne bayi 92 LezaE anaare ne pie ne
ayi
. .
. .
(Noba) kOO 100 (Boma) kOO
KOO ne yeni 101 KOO ne yeni
KOO ne bayi 102 KOO ne ayi
. .
. .
KOOre ayi 200 KOOre ayi
KOOre ata 300 KOOre ata
. .
. .
KOOre awae 900 KOOre awae
(Noba) tur 1000 (Boma) tur
. .
Tur ayi 2000 Tur ayi
Tur ata 3000 Tur ata
. .
Tur tur (mur) 1000 000 Tur tur (mur)
. .
Tur tur tur (bur) 1000 000 000 Tur tur tur
(bur)
 ----------------------------------------------------------------------

As can be seen for the last two numerals above, speakers would refer
to million as 'thousand thousand' and billion, presumably as
'thousand, thousand, thousand'. The names in parenthesis ('mur' and
'bur') are my own suggestions, as a linguist/native speaker of the
language, towards a better way of referring to very large numbers. I
wonder how other languages are accomodating this need to have more
numerals in the counting system.

Adams Bodomo
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