LINGUIST List 6.981

Mon Jul 17 1995

Misc: Counting systems, Symbol K in baseball, Banning of German

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Kay Owens, Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems
  2. John E Limber, Re: strucK out by Nomo
  3. Sxren Harder, Re: Banning of German

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

Date: Sun, 16 Jul 1995 11:32:45 Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems
From: Kay Owens <k.owensuws.EDU.AU>
Subject: Re: 6.943, Disc: Non-decimal counting systems

Members may be interested in the work of Dr Glendon Lean (a past colleague
of mine in PNG) who passed away in March this year after recording his work
of 22 years on the Counting Systems of Papua New Guinea and Oceania. He
documented in 24 appendices (bound in four volumes) counting systems of over
883 languages, most of which were not a simple base 10 cycle. On top of
this, his thesis also suggested that the origins of counting systems are to
be found in indigenous cultures and while they were spread they may have
also spontaneously developed. He included records of body tally systems in
which numbers were also used for parts of the body in an orderly system;
cycles of every number up to ten except seven and nine (I think from memory)
with many having secondary cycles. He covered Austronesian languages and
Papuan languages. Printed copies of the volumes of appendices are available
from Chris Wilkins, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics, PNG University of
Technology, Lae, Private Mail Bag, Papua New Guinea. Professor Alan Bishop,
Education, Monash University Melbourne is also able to assist with
information on this.

I am hoping to look at some further mathematical connections in languages in
East Timor. If anyone has any information on this, could you please email me.
Thank you,

Dr Kay Owens,

Faculty of Education,
University of Western Sydney, Macarthur,
PO Box 555,
Campbelltown, NSW 2560
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Message 2: Re: strucK out by Nomo

Date: Wed, 12 Jul 1995 16:24:07 Re: strucK out by Nomo
From: John E Limber <>
Subject: Re: strucK out by Nomo

The symbol K was used in early baseball box scores, indicating that the
batter had strucK out. This abbreviation was probably originated around
1850 by Henry Chadwick who "introduced the newspaper box score so that one
player's performance could be fairly measured against another's."

Chadwick was a British born newspaperman who is described in Ken Burns'
Baseball as baseball's "chief arbiter, publicist, and goad" who was the
country's first baseball editor, working for the New York Clipper and for
the Brooklyn Eagle for nearly fifty years. He also wrote Chadwick's
Baseball Manual that standardized the rules, etc. of the early game.

(This information comes from my baseball informant, Chris Hakala, and the
narrative transcript of Geoffrey Ward & Ken Burns' _Baseball_ published by
Knopf, 1994.)

John Limber
Department of Psychology
University of New Hampshire, Durham NH 03824, USA
FAX (603)-862-4986
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Message 3: Re: Banning of German

Date: Tue, 11 Jul 1995 15:28:58 Re: Banning of German
From: Sxren Harder <>
Subject: Re: Banning of German

While flipping through random books at the linguistics
library, I fell over something that would be interesting to
this discussion. I haven't been following this thread, so
this might have been mentioned before.

I found a reference to the US Supreme Court Reports, 1922
October Term, Meyer vs. Nebraska, p. 392--403 in
Steinberg(1993) An Introduction to Psycholinguistics,
Longman. I'll quote the passage in full, as it is so well
written. It's in the beginning of chapter 8.

"In May of 1920, in Hamilton County, Nebraska, a rural area
of the United States, a teacher, Mr Robert Meyer, was
arrested for violating state law. Mayer had been teaching
Bible stories in German at Zion Parochial school to a
10-year-old boy. Nebraska law forbade the teaching of a
second language to children under the age of 13. Not only
Nebraska but 21 other states as well prohibited the teaching
of foreign languages, except 'dead' languages such as Latin
and Greek. According to Nebraska's 1919 Siman Act,
 'No person ... shall teach any subject to any person
in any language other than the English language. Languages
other than English may be taught only after a pupil shall
have ... passed the eighth grade. ... Any person who violates
any of the provisions of this act shall be deemed guilty of a
misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be subject to a fine
of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25), nor more than one
hundred dollars ($100) or be confined in the county jail for
any period not exceeding thirty days for each offense.'
 If found guilty, Meyer could have been fined or even
sent to jail.
 The states had passed these laws essentially with the
German language as the target, America had just finished a
war with Germany and there was a hatred of Germany and things
German, particularly its military values, ideals and
political institutions. The law reflected the widespread
belief that the German language was the embodiment of all
that was evil in German culture and that to teach such a
language to young Americans would be immoral and corrupting.
 Meyer decided to appeal his case to the Supreme Court
of the State of Nebraska. Ironically, lawyers for the state of
Nebraska took essentially the position presented in the
German language by the German philosopher, Wilhelm von
Humboldt, in 1836. That is, a language by its very nature
represents the spirit and national character of a people. If
this were true, then by teaching them the grammar, structure
and vocabulary of the German language, Meyer could indeed have
been harming American children by making them into German
militarists right there on the plains of Nebraska.
 The Nebraska Supreme Court denied Meyer's appeal, but
Meyer did not submit. He then took his case to the highest
court in the country, the United States Supreme Court, where
he won his case. That court overturned his conviction and
declared unconstitutional all laws in the United States which
forbade the teaching of a foreign language. In its 1922 ruling
the court stated as one basis for its decision. 'Mere
knowledge of the German language cannot reasonably be
regarded as harmful.'
 We see in this story that a seemingly purely
theoretical issue can have very practical consequences in
everyday life. In making a legal decision on the matter, the
court also made a psycholinguistic decision, on the
relationship of language, thought and culture. Was the court
correct? It is this question that we shall now consider.'
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