Number names

Number names

In linguistics, a number name, or numeral, is a symbol or group of symbols, or a word in a natural language that represents a number. Numerals differ from numbers just as words differ from the things they refer to. The symbols "11", "eleven" and "XI" are different numerals, all representing the same number. This article attempts to explain the various systems of numerals.

History

Counting base

10 - decimal

Although a majority of traditional number systems are based on the decimal numeral system, there are many regional variations even within decimal, including:

* Western system: based on thousands, with variants (see English-language numerals)
* Indian system: crore, lakh (see Indian numbering system. Indian numerals)
* East Asian system: based on ten-thousands (see below)

12 - duodecimal

Duodecimal numbers have only been used consistently in a few cases. Among these, the Chepang language of Nepal, the Mahl language of Minicoy Island in India, and several languages of the Nigerian Middle Belt, such as Janji, Kahugu and the Nimbia dialect of Gwandara. However, duodecimal subdivisions offer practical advantages over decimal because of the better divisibility of twelve (which is a highly composite number), and as such they have been used extensively in many other cultures as well; for example, in time divisions (twelve months in a year, the twelve-hour clock), in the imperial system of units (twelve inches to the foot, twelve Troy ounces to the Troy pound), or in the former British monetary system (twelve pence to the shilling). As a result, languages such as English eventually borrowed or evolved terms such "dozen", "gross" and "great gross", which allow for a rudimentary duodecimal nomenclature (e.g., saying "two gross and six dozen" instead of "three hundred and sixty"). Ancient Romans used decimal for integers, but switched to duodecimal for fractions, and correspondingly Latin developed a rich vocabulary for duodecimal-based fractions (see Roman numerals). In fiction, J. R. R. Tolkien's Elvish languages used duodecimal along with decimal.

20 - vigesimal

Vigesimal numbers were the standard among ancient Mesoamerican cultures, and are still in use in the modern indigenous languages of their present-day descendants, such as the Nahuatl and Mayan languages (see also Maya numerals). Vigesimal terminology is also found to some extent in some European languages (Basque, Celtic languages, French (in which case is originally derived from Celtic languages), Danish, Georgian). English has a remnant of vigesimal numeration in the word "score" (famously used in the opening of the Gettysburg Address).

5 - quinary

Quinary is found in Inuit languages.

8 - octal

Octal is used in the Yuki language of California and in the Pamean languages of Mexico, because their speakers count using the spaces between their fingers rather than the fingers themselves. [ citation
title=Ethnomathematics: A Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas
first=Marcia
last=Ascher
year=1994
publisher=Chapman & Hall
isbn=0412989417
]

For very large (and very small) numbers, traditional systems have been superseded by the use of scientific notation and the system of SI prefixes. Traditional systems continue to be used in everyday life.

Types of numerals

In linguistics names of numbers can be classified according to their use: [http://www.sil.org/LINGUISTICS/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsANumeral.htm]
*Cardinal numerals: how many items - "one", "two", "three".
*ordinal numerals: position - "first", "second", "third".
*Multiplicative numerals: how many times - "once", "twice", "thrice".
*Distributive numerals: expresses a group of the number specified: In "pairs", by the "dozen". English does not have distributive numerals for these but other languages such as Georgian do. [http://wals.info/feature/description/]
*Partitive numerals: expresses a fraction - half, third, quarter.

Numerals in various languages and scripts

* Arabic numeral system
* Armenian numerals
* Babylonian numerals
* Chinese numerals
* English-language numerals
* Greek numerals
* Hebrew numerals
* Indian numerals
* Japanese numerals
* Korean numerals
* Mayan numerals
* Quipu
* Rod numerals
* Roman numerals

See also

* Large numbers
* Abacus
* History of large numbers
* List of numbers in various languages
* List of numeral system topics
* Long and short scales
* Myriad
* Names of large numbers
* Numeral system

References


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