WW #22: I Jump to the Other Hand

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This week, inspired by Janko Gorenc’s extensive collection of numbers in different languages, I’m doing words for numbers.

The numbers from one to ten in the Meamorian languages are:

MuipidanKharulianNitherian
1ke [ke]ghyam [ʝam]wethm [we.ðm̩]
2to [to]tsas [tsas]tho [ðo]
3phi [pʰi]lwee [ɫeː]vn [vn̩]
4nao [ˈna.o]ugyen [uˈɟɛn]wnyo [ˈwən.jo]
5kim [kɪm]rut [rut]oya [ˈo.ja]
6tikim [ˈti.kɪm]rut o ghyam [rut oˈʝam]slezle [ˈɬe.ɮe]
7mukïm [ˈmu.kɨm]rut o tsas [rut oˈtsas]mthaslo [m̩ˈða.ɬo]
8kosïgïm [ˈko.zɨ.ɡɨm]rut o lwee [rut oˈɫeː]mvnslo [m̩ˈvn̩.ɬo]
9naygem [ˈnaj.ɡɛm]rut os ugyen [rut o.suˈɟɛn]veraslo [veˈra.ɬo]
10kimme [‘kɪm.mə]ruti tsas [ˈru.tˠi tsas]thotlo [ˈðo.tɬo]

The Muipidan and Kharulian systems have a base-5 structure to them; the numbers six to nine are just the word for five plus the numbers one to four. (This is obscured in Muipidan because at some point it replaced the numbers one to three with demonstratives.)

The Nitherian numbers show traces of this as well: tho “two” and vn “three” show up again in mthaslo “seven” and mvnslo “eight”. But some of the Old Nitherian forms are even more transparent references to counting on the fingers. For example, oya “five” is from Old Nitherian hwoyao, literally “it is complete”, referring to a fully-counted hand; slezle “six” is from Old Nitherian yisledlai, literally “I jump to the (other) hand”.

What about bigger numbers? Muipidan and Kharulian both use base sixty to form large numbers. They share words for powers of sixty (the Kharulians borrowed the Muipidan words):

  • 60 is Muipidan ndak’o [ˈⁿda.kʼo] (originally “heap”), Kharulian dzaku [ˈdza.ku].
  • 3,600 is Muipidan thoyk’o [ˈtʰɔj.kʼo] (originally “granary”), Kharulian tulku [ˈtuɫ.ku]
  • 216,000 is Muipdan slak’o [ˈsla.kʼo] (also “hill”), Kharulian salaku [səˈɫa.ku]

All of these started out (in Muipidan) as generic ways of referring to a large amount of something (like “a mountain of debt” in English) before settling on exact numeric values.

The Nitherians, meanwhile, switched to a base-six system when they started needing bigger numbers for accounting and trade. Their words for powers of six are:

  • thwi [ðwi], literally “many”, for 36
  • thwerwi [ˈðwe.rwi], originally a reduplication of “many”, for 216 (six cubed)
  • thwesaso [ðweˈsa.so], literally “great many”, for 1,296 (six to the fourth power)

Larger numbers can be built by combining these: thwi thwesaso is 46,656 (six to the sixth power), while thwesaso thwesaso is 1,679,616 (six to the eighth power).

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