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Anahita
07-11-2002, 07:49 AM
I know that in French, one can count up to 69 quite easily.

When we hit seventy, we suddenly start counting strangely.

10 is dix

11 is onze
60 is soixante
70 is soixante-dix (60 + 10)
71 is soixant-onze (60 + 11)
etc...

Then we get to eighty, which is...

20 is vingt
4 is quatre
80 is quatre-vingt (4 X 20)
90 is quatre-vingt-dix (4 X 20 + 10)

Why the hell is it like this? How did this come about? Are there any other number systems with a similar mechanism?

Why couldn't 80 is but huitante?
90 could be nuefante?

Does anyone know anything about how the history of this system resulted in this complicated system?

CalMeacham
07-11-2002, 07:53 AM
I know that in French, one can count up to 69 quite easily.




I got to this line and my brain syopped working.

Johnny L.A.
07-11-2002, 08:03 AM
I don't speak French, but the higher numbers resemble the old "Four score and twenty years ago..." Eighty is four score. Ninety is four score and ten. It does seem unwieldy.

Acsenray
07-11-2002, 09:19 AM
There's nothing unusual about this. Just try learning to count to 100 in Bengali. There's not much of a pattern. You basically have to memorise all 100 numbers.

Achernar
07-11-2002, 09:45 AM
Originally posted by Johnny L.A.
I don't speak French, but the higher numbers resemble the old "Four score and twenty years ago..." Eighty is four score. Ninety is four score and ten. It does seem unwieldy. What's the deal with this? I know I've heard "four score and seven" but never "four score and twenty", which seems unnecessarily unwieldy.

Walloon
07-11-2002, 10:36 AM
In Wallonia (the French-speaking southern half of Belgium), things are more logical: 'septante', 'octante' and 'nonante' instead of 'soixante-dix', 'quatre-vingts' and 'quatre-vingt-dix.

DrLiver
07-11-2002, 10:40 AM
Well it depends, on where you live, I curently live near the Quebec/Ontario borderline and in french we use the numbers as you said (the whole quebec uses it that way), however we do get a TV channel that broadcasts stuff from France and Belgium, and I noticed they were using the following terms for 80 and 90:

80 "octante"
90 "neunante"

but I guess the "quatre-vingt, etc etc" are also good, I have no idea of their origin..

Also when counting from 15 to 20 it also gets different"

15 - quinze
16 - seize
17 - dix-sept (10 and 7)
18 - dix-huit (10 and 8)
19 - dix-neuf (10 and9)

Anyone knows why it changes at between 16 and 17?? :confused:

friedo
07-11-2002, 10:58 AM
I'm still trying to figure out why we English speakers have eleven and twelve instead of one-teen and two-teen. :)

I really like the Chinese counting system -- simple and straightforward and easy to memorize.

bordelond
07-11-2002, 11:05 AM
Originally posted by DrLiver
...but I guess the "quatre-vingt, etc etc" are also good, I have no idea of their origin..

Celtic languages, which were spoken in France (indeed, most of Europe) before Roman times, used a numbering system based on twenties.

Interesting link with loads of info on this subject. (http://lists.village.virginia.edu/lists_archive/Humanist/v05/0265.html) Some excepts:

Karl Menninger's Number Words and Number Symbols (thanks again, Willard!) discusses counting by twenties in numerous places. Of most interest probably are pp. 66-68 wherein he explains the counting-by-twenties in French as arising in the 11th c. with the Normans, they already having had such a system in common use, including the word 'skor'.

I've always understood this to be a remnant of Gaulish influence on French - the system of counting in units of 20 is a feature of the Celtic languages. In Welsh, for example, 30 is ten-on-twenty, 31 is eleven-on-twenty, 40 is two-twenties, 60 is three-twenties, 80 is four-twenties (pedwar ugain, cf. French quatre-vingts).

BTW, Welsh teens are fairly complicated: 11 is one-on-ten, 12 is two-ten, 13 is three-on-ten, 14 is four-on-ten, 15 is five-ten, 16 is one-on-five-ten, 17 is two-on-five-ten, 18 is two-nines, 19 is four-on-five-ten. These numbers combine with the units of twenties mentioned above, so that a number like 97 for example, is: dau ar bymtheg ar bedwar ugain (two-on-five-ten-on-four-twenties). Simple really, and I can't understand why this system hasn't been
more widely adopted.


Originally posted by DrLiver
Anyone knows why it changes at between 16 and 17?

Dunno. English does this too -- from "twelve" to "thirteen".

Ellen Cherry
07-11-2002, 01:15 PM
the system of counting in units of 20 is a feature of
the Celtic languages.

OK, why? Because of 10 fingers and 10 toes -- like a Base 20 (if there is such a thing)? I'm way out of my league discussing math of even the simplest sort, but my understanding was that humans count to 10 and then start over with variations, because having 10 fingers made this the most expedient thing to do. Now it's starting to sound like Base 10 is only the inclination of one or a few languages or cultures. Hm?

Acsenray
07-11-2002, 01:41 PM
Perhaps the mistake is in assuming that all number names were created all at once with an orderly pattern in mind. I would imagine that any particularlanguage might have developed several words for a certain number and that factors other than intentional organisation influenced which number names were adopted.

bordelond
07-11-2002, 02:02 PM
Originally posted by Ellen Cherry
OK, why? Because of 10 fingers and 10 toes -- like a Base 20 (if there is such a thing)? I'm way out of my league discussing math of even the simplest sort, but my understanding was that humans count to 10 and then start over with variations, because having 10 fingers made this the most expedient thing to do. Now it's starting to sound like Base 10 is only the inclination of one or a few languages or cultures. Hm?

An excerpt from [url="http://prenhall.com/divisions/esm/app/ph-elem/multicult/html/chap3.html"]this Yoruba language site[/url}:

THE YORUBA NUMBER SYSTEM

In her book, Africa Counts, Claudia Zaslavsky describes the Yoruba number system as a complex system based on 20 (vigesimal) that uses subtraction to express numbers. For example,

35 = (2 x 20) - 5; 47 = (3 x 20) - 10 - 3; 51 = (3 x 20) - 10 + 1;

55 = (3 x 20) - 5; 67 = (4 x 20) - 10 - 3; 73 = (4 x 20) - 10 + 3;

86 = (5 x 20) - 10 - 4; 117 = (6 x 20) - 3

According to the Yoruba system, the numbers from 1 to 10 have unique names. The numbers 11, 12, 13, and 14 are written additively (i.e., 11 = 10 + 1, 12 = 10 + 2, 13 = 10 + 3, 14 = 10 + 4). But the numbers from 15 through 19 are written using subtraction from 20. The numbers 21, 22, 23, and 24 are also written additively. The numbers 25 -29 are written as subtractions from 30. Each number after 30 is written as a multiple of 20 plus or minus tens and units. This pattern is repeated for numbers up to 200. After 200, the system becomes irregular. The number 20 and its multiples are considered special to the Yoruba. Here are some of their Yoruba names.

20 = ogun; 40 = ogun meji; 200 = igba; 400 = irinwo.

Although this number system seems very difficult and abstract to Westerners, it is perfectly natural to the Yoruba and is still used today.

As part of their trading commerce, the Yoruba had to count huge numbers of cowrie shells. When a cowrie counter had to count thousands of shells, he would empty the bag onto the floor and start counting 20s by making 4 groups of 5 shells each. Then the counter would make 5 groups of 20 to make 100. Then 2 groups of 100 would be pushed together to make the important 200. The subtractive principle developed from counting in this manner. The Yoruba also learned to estimate well when counting large quantities of cowrie shells.


Now, making groups of fours and fives is actually a very intuitive exercise to humans. Four or five objects are about the most a person can "count" in their head by mere sight -- a pile of 7 or 8 shells are not so easy to discern from each other with a quick, instinctive glance.

The origins of the Celtic base-20 counting system may be similar to that of the Yoruba system.

Johnny L.A.
07-11-2002, 03:06 PM
What's the deal with this? I know I've heard "four score and seven" but never "four score and twenty", which seems unnecessarily unwieldy.
I often mistype in the morning before coffee. Of course, I meant "four score and seven".

Anahita
07-12-2002, 06:51 AM
Eep, so French isn't that bad after all.

Just recalling that Japanese is similar, in a sense.

Thirty is san ju (3 x 10)
Thirteen is ju san (10 + 3)

Interesting. I suppose it makes more sense to me than French where they add AND multiply for one numeral.

Thanks for the responses!

mapsmith
07-13-2002, 07:25 PM
They are French!!!!!!!!

:wally

Bryan Ekers
07-13-2002, 07:35 PM
A friend of mine worked a switchboard once and though he's bilingual, he complained about the French numbering. He had to type phone numbers into his board and sometimes the caller would say "quatre-" (and he would type a 4) "-vingt-" (and he would curse to himself, hit backspace and change it to an 8) "-seize" (and he would curse again, backspace again and change it to a 9).

sturmhauke
07-14-2002, 02:31 AM
I'm currently reading a very interesting book called The Nothing That Is: A Natural History Of Zero by Robert Kaplan. One of the first uses of zero was as a placeholder in a string of written digits, such as 409. Prior to this development, people thought of numbers as sort of different sized lumps of objects, rather than as abstract numbers as we do today. For example, 409 means four hundreds plus zero tens plus nine ones. To the Romans, the same number would be CDIX, or five hundred minus one hundred plus ten minus one. I don't know if the Romans would have said it that way out loud, but the point is that the words for numbers date from a time when people didn't think in abstract mathematical numbers, but in terms of how many pieces of gold, or sheep, or whatever, they did or didn't have.

Sue Duhnym
07-14-2002, 02:31 AM
Originally posted by DrLiver
Anyone knows why it changes at between 16 and 17?? :confused:

Spanish does it too, but between 15 and 16.

14 - catorce
15 - quince
16 - dieciséis
17 - diecisiete

Hari Seldon
07-14-2002, 02:38 AM
Lots of numbering systems are odd. In Denmark (and probably Sweden and Norway too), not only do you say (the equivalent of) 4 and 20 (as in German), but things start to get weird at 50. To say 54 you say 4 and half third. And 64 is 4 and third. and 74 is 4 and half fourth. What these apparently mean is 4 and halfway to the third twenty and so on.

And in French Switzerland, they say septante, huitante (not the Belgium octante), and nonante. And parts of France use these or variants. Also six vingt and qunize vingt are occasionally used for 120 and 300, resp.

Why twenty and not twoty? And why thirteen and not threeteen? Not to mention fifteen.

jbird3000
07-14-2002, 04:52 AM
Originally posted by Sue Duhnym


Spanish does it too, but between 15 and 16.

14 - catorce
15 - quince
16 - dieciséis
17 - diecisiete

So does English. Eleven, twelve, then thriteen, fourteen, fifteen....

Boyo Jim
07-14-2002, 08:48 AM
Originally posted by Anahita
I know that in French, one can count up to 69 quite easily...

I must say, I too was captivated by this thread from your very first sentence.

My theory (from an American perspective) is that France and the whole world in general have an intuitive understanding of 69. After that, French culture and behaviors spiral off into the unrecognizeable. :p

meta-x
07-14-2002, 09:38 AM
Both french and english has vigesimal numbering system ( that's base 20 ). Now that we're using arabic number we're all back to decimal system but some of the name have stuck. Their are name for number in decimal system in french but they are not in use very much

...
70 :septante
80 : octante
90 : nonante
...

Here's a very good book which goes through a good deal of numbering system :

Mathematics, from the birth of number
by
Jan Gullberg

This book is also a very good math revision for those of us who have left the field for a while and want to get back in the game :)

Juggler
07-14-2002, 01:09 PM
Originally posted by Hari Seldon
Lots of numbering systems are odd. In Denmark (and probably Sweden and Norway too), not only do you say (the equivalent of) 4 and 20 (as in German), but things start to get weird at 50. To say 54 you say 4 and half third. And 64 is 4 and third. and 74 is 4 and half fourth. What these apparently mean is 4 and halfway to the third twenty and so on.


This is not true for Sweden and Norway. Danish can be quite hard to understand for me (swedish) when they speak fast. To add to this their numbering system makes it impossible to know how much to pay in shops if you can't see it in digits. I usally just hand them a lump of money and hope they are honest people. (Stupid me...)

In Sweden the numbering system changes at 12

11 - elva
12 - tolv
13 - tretton
14 - fjorton

-ton corresponds to the english -teen

essohbee
07-14-2002, 07:54 PM
Actually, the norwegians sometimes switch around units and tens
between 21 and 99 so that, as an example, 24 becomes four and
twenty.

mandielise
07-14-2002, 08:43 PM
Yeah, that was one thing that bugged me about German! When they wanted to go to page 124, it would be "one hundred four and twenty." It's SOOO annoying.

I'm pretty sure that the decimal numbers already mentioned numerous times "setante..." in French are used almost everywhere in the spoken language. I'm a French major at University, and one of the classes I had last semester was an advanced oral class, and we were discouraged from saying "soixante-dix, etc..."

Spanish has also messed me up - sometimes it's "vientiseis" where you can contract the "twenty and six"... and sometimes it's "trenta y seis" where you have to spell out the "thirty and six" (I'll apologize now for my aweful Spanish spelling, but it was my fourth foreign language and I was only interested in learning to speak it)

mnemosyne
07-15-2002, 07:26 PM
Your French teacher DISCOURAGED the use of "soixante-dix" etc?!?! Then he wasn't teaching French, he was teaching a dialect. I grew up in Quebec, and my family still lives there, and I only first heard the other terms about 2 years ago from a Swiss chef where I worked. And the French chef continually corrected him.

I begin to see the frustration of the "dying French language" POV of some sovereignists when I hear things like this. Sure, SOME people might use it, but it isn't the language, no matter how common it is is some regions. And French actually has an Institution determining what is and isn't the language. Unlless your class focused on regionalisms and slang (which is totally acceptable, and in which case I appoligise for this rant), then your prof was not teaching you what you were there to learn.

Of course, thats just my humble opinion, and sorry for slamming you, but still...discouraged?!?!?!

Daveke
10-24-2014, 05:13 PM
Well, nice discussion ... held by english speaking people. :confused:
Time for a BELGIAN to fix some things. :D
I know, waaaaay to late (twelve years, :eek: :smack:) but life sucks at this time and I can really think of nothing better to waste it on.
So here goes:

First of all, why do I think I'm in title to bud in? I'm a bi-(quadrupal actualy)-lingual Belgian :D :D
Belgium is bi-lingual (situation kinda like in Canada), with people speaking dutch in the north (Flanders) and french (Wallonia) in the south. The flemish is the same language as the dutch in the netherlands, but with a distinct difference in pronounciation and use of words, dialects, figures of speatch, same difference as British english and American English. No, the difference is even greater. You REALLY can distinct a Flemish from a Dutchman as you would a Brit and an American.

Btw, in dutch we use the same numbering as the Germans do. From twenty-one and so on the Tens come after the Ones, five-and-twenty (25), Flemish hundred-AND-one as to dutch hundred-one (101)

- octante: this is NEVER used at all in Belgian Wallonia. They use
70 = septante (not setante, the "p" is not silent)
80 = huitante
90 = nonante (not neufante)

- "...DISCOURAGED ...": indeed wrong! If you use these three numbers in France, you will puzzle people :confused: They might even be insulted as they do not really like the wallonians, nor theyr dialect.

70 = soixante-dix
80 = quatre-vingt
90 = quatre-vingt-dix

As a purist I find it very disturbing that they (the government) changed the teaching of French as a second language to Wallonian over the years. Not only did they change the numbering (now septante instead of soixante-dix) they also got wrid (or rid or whatever) of the term vous, votre, meaning you, your plural OR first contact/polite. They just use tu,toi, which you only use among friends or family. Use tu or toi on a holiday and you will get no service or even worse, some extra service :eek:

That's it for now.

Curous if ANYONE will repond to or even READ this after so long :rolleyes: :D

Unpronounceable
10-24-2014, 09:17 PM
I'm still trying to figure out why we English speakers have eleven and twelve instead of one-teen and two-teen. :)

Because it was base-12. Which is why there's also a special term for 12x12.

JKellyMap
10-24-2014, 10:29 PM
Because it was base-12. Which is why there's also a special term for 12x12.

Which is...? Or is it unpronounceable? ;)

JKellyMap
10-24-2014, 10:33 PM
Never mind -- I remembered. Eww, yucky.

njtt
10-24-2014, 11:46 PM
I know that in French, one can count up to 69 quite easily.

When we hit seventy, we suddenly start counting strangely.

.....

Does anyone know anything about how the history of this system resulted in this complicated system?

Once they got to 69, the French lost all interest in having a rational system of counting.

Malacandra
10-25-2014, 02:07 AM
Because it was base-12. Which is why there's also a special term for 12x12.

Yeah, but that's just gross.

septimus
10-25-2014, 02:29 AM
I'm surprised that in the 12 years of this thread no one has mentioned that Basque uses vigesimal (base-20) numbers. It seems likely that Celtic picked up their system from proto-Basque.

Among other vigesimal languages is Burushaski, an isolated language of Pakistan with which Basque is sometimes linked. (This connection seems far-fetched given the huge distance from Spain to Pakistan, but is supported by cognates, regular sound changes, and the idea that both are vestiges of the language of the earliest farmers of the Near East.)

JustinC
10-25-2014, 03:28 AM
Did it depend on how many blackbirds they could bake in a pie?

Steken
10-25-2014, 03:47 AM
Lots of numbering systems are odd. In Denmark (and probably Sweden and Norway too), not only do you say (the equivalent of) 4 and 20 (as in German), but things start to get weird at 50. To say 54 you say 4 and half third. And 64 is 4 and third. and 74 is 4 and half fourth. What these apparently mean is 4 and halfway to the third twenty and so on.

This is not true for Sweden and Norway. Danish can be quite hard to understand for me (swedish) when they speak fast. To add to this their numbering system makes it impossible to know how much to pay in shops if you can't see it in digits. I usally just hand them a lump of money and hope they are honest people.

Of the Scandinavian languages, only Danish does that bugfuck crazy thing where

50 = "half third"
60 = "third"
70 = "half fourth"
80 = "fourth"
90 = "half fifth"

The two (unspoken!) ideas behind this being that a) "half" doesn't mean "50%," but rather "minus 0.5"; and b) everything is to be multiplied by twenty.

50 = "half third" (2.5 x 20)
60 = "third" (3 x 20)
70 = "half fourth" (3.5 x 20)
80 = "fourth" (4 x 20)
90 = "half fifth" (4.5 x 20)

As you can imagine, this tentacled pit of Lovecraftian horror that is Danish numbering has led many an nerve-frayed Swede to flee back across the strait in horror and revulsion, and spend the rest of their cursed existence mumbling in a rocking chair about "the halves," "the twenties" and the cosmic goat of a thousand young. "Why they ever built that bridge, I'll never know! Fools, I say! Fools! They know not what they've wrought...!"

septimus
10-25-2014, 04:03 AM
"Why they ever built that bridge, I'll never know!

My Danish friend told me it was because Swedes were returning to their country so drunk that sea-sickness was a major problem on the ferries.

bob++
10-25-2014, 06:15 AM
There are all kinds of oddities:
2......a couple
2......a pair
2......a brace
6...... half a dozen
12.....a dozen
13.....a baker's dozen
20.....a score
144....a gross (12 dozen)

At school I had to learn my tables up to 16 because there are 16 ounces in a pound weight. 12 was even more important because there are 12 inches in a foot and were 12 pennies in a shilling.

Then there is the betting man's jargon - £20 is a Score, £25 a Pony, £100 a Ton, £500 a Monkey, and £1000 a Grand.

Kobal2
10-25-2014, 06:34 AM
I'm still trying to figure out why we English speakers have eleven and twelve instead of one-teen and two-teen. :)

Because up until the tenth/eleventh century or so, when the Abbassid califate introduced base 10 counting, "arab" numbers and the zero ; people counted in base 12.

Don't ask me why OR how, I already have a hard time wrapping my mind around doing any kind of math without 0 :). I guess they counted on their fingers, using the closed fist as one additional number ?

BigT
10-25-2014, 06:41 AM
The thing about the French system is that you can't do what you would normally do with strange words. You can't just treat soixante-dix as a funny way of saying "seventy." Because, when you go above that, you don't say soixante-dix(et)un, but soixant-onze. You say sixty-eleven, followed by sixty-twelve, sixty-thirteen, etc. You either have to treat all those numbers as oddballs (at least up until soixante-dix-sept, "sixty-seventeen"), or you treat 60 as different, having an extra 10 numbers that are for some reason written with a "7" in front of them.

While you can see quatre-vingt as just being a funny way to say "80," without a huit (8) in it anywhere, but you run into the same problem with ninety. It's eighty-eleven, eighty-twelve, eighty-thirteen, etc.

So for two multiples of ten, you have to switch to base-20. That's what seems so weird.

MichaelEmouse
10-25-2014, 06:43 AM
Because up until the tenth/eleventh century or so, when the Abbassid califate introduced base 10 counting, "arab" numbers and the zero ; people counted in base 12.

Don't ask me why OR how, I already have a hard time wrapping my mind around doing any kind of math without 0 :). I guess they counted on their fingers, using the closed fist as one additional number ?

The knuckles in the fingers of a hand, with the thumb in contact with the current knuckle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duodecimal#Origin

One hand counts the base using the knuckles of the non-thumb* fingers while the other hand uses all fingers to count to 60.

JKellyMap
10-25-2014, 06:45 AM
Because up until the tenth/eleventh century or so, when the Abbassid califate introduced base 10 counting, "arab" numbers and the zero ; people counted in base 12.

Don't ask me why OR how, I already have a hard time wrapping my mind around doing any kind of math without 0 :). I guess they counted on their fingers, using the closed fist as one additional number ?

One interesting result of this is the English word "teenager." The nearest equivalent in, say, Spanish is the cognate of "adolescent" -- the Spanish numbering system doesn't produce a handy word like this. I suppose a word could have developed like *diesialgo for someone aged 16 to 19, and might have reinforced some concept of "late adolescence." That the lowest English "-teen" number happens to coincide more or less with the onset of puberty is just a lucky coincidence. Average puberty onset has been getting earlier in recent decades; I wonder if, in some subtle way, the English-speaking mind is having trouble internalizing this fact, because it breaks the neat concept of "teenager."

Kobal2
10-25-2014, 06:54 AM
The knuckles in the fingers of a hand, with the thumb in contact with the current knuckle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duodecimal#Origin

One hand counts the base using the knuckles of the non-thumb* fingers while the other hand uses all fingers to count to 60.

Aaah OK. Clever !

chappachula
10-25-2014, 11:13 AM
One interesting result of this is the English word "teenager."" .,.... Average puberty onset has been getting earlier in recent decades...I wonder if the English-speaking mind is having trouble internalizing this fact, because it breaks the neat concept of "teenager."
English has invented a new word for the concept :"tween".*

Does any other language have a word for this?


*(defined as " a young person between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.)
from dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tween?s=t)

Mangosteen
10-25-2014, 11:14 AM
The knuckles in the fingers of a hand, with the thumb in contact with the current knuckle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duodecimal#Origin

One hand counts the base using the knuckles of the non-thumb* fingers while the other hand uses all fingers to count to 60.

Is this why the Babylonians had a sexagesimal ("60") based counting system?

robert_columbia
10-25-2014, 11:39 AM
Is this why the Babylonians had a sexagesimal ("60") based counting system?

Not sure, but the Babylonian sexagesimal system is where we get the 60-minute hour. The Egyptians came up with the idea of dividing the day into 24 work shifts, but the Babylonians decided that having only 24 distinct times of day wasn't enough and decided to divide the hour into the number of units that made the most sense to them given their language and culture.

JKellyMap
10-25-2014, 02:45 PM
The Babylonian system was partly based on the observation that the year had about 360 days, which lent itself well to 60 x 6, which (like 12) have nice fractional factors (or whatever they're called).

JKellyMap
10-25-2014, 02:51 PM
English has invented a new word for the concept :"tween".*

Does any other language have a word for this?


*(defined as " a young person between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.)
from dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tween?s=t)

Good question. Spanish would be preadolescente. Again, English lucks out with a fortuitous pun. "Between" in Spanish is entre -- how about adolescentre? You heard it here first!

DCnDC
10-25-2014, 03:52 PM
I'm still trying to figure out why we English speakers have eleven and twelve instead of one-teen and two-teen. :)

It's from the Old English "endleofan" ("one left") and "twelfe" ("two left").

Cite (http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/57139.html)

Dr. Drake
10-25-2014, 03:56 PM
One interesting result of this is the English word "teenager."In Welsh, it's an arddegwr—"on-ten-er." The numbers that use "ar ddeg" run from "un ar ddeg" (11) to "pedwar ar ddeg" (14), but in general the word is used to map English "teenager" rather than "tween." I suppose teenager proper would be "arbymthegwr" (15–19) but nobody uses it. Pity: it would be a useful distinction. "Arhugeinwr" would be 20–39, and "Arddeugeinwr" could be 40–59.

Hari Seldon
10-25-2014, 04:17 PM
It's from the Old English "endleofan" ("one left") and "twelfe" ("two left").

Cite (http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/57139.html)

Just nipped me, but I still wanted to say that I don't think English ever used a duodecimal system. At any rate, everyone used Roman numerals which is base 10 if it can be called anything. Until, one Leonardo, son of Bonacci (aka known as Fibonacci--yes that Fibonacci) came back from doing some business in North Africa with this new way of writing numbers from the Arabs (who got it from the Hindus). It took a long time to catch on and there, of course, still vestiges of it use. Like movies made in MMXIV.

Bozuit
10-25-2014, 05:07 PM
Only half the numbers are odd, really.

Giles
10-25-2014, 07:45 PM
Only half the numbers are odd, really.
Even the other half.

runningdude
10-26-2014, 01:05 AM
They are French!!!!!!!!

:wally

This is more true than you might imagine, as the French Academy formally standardizes the language (unlike in English, were common use prevails).

jovan
10-26-2014, 09:42 AM
This is more true than you might imagine, as the French Academy formally standardizes the language (unlike in English, were common use prevails).

Tries to standardize the language, and does a poor job at that. The French language, as spoken, written and described in dictionaries and grammars is the product of a broad consensus. Please, let's stop repeating this old saw.

runningdude
10-26-2014, 11:49 AM
Tries to standardize the language, and does a poor job at that. The French language, as spoken, written and described in dictionaries and grammars is the product of a broad consensus. Please, let's stop repeating this old saw.

Ugh, while consensus may truly prevail, that is irrelevant to my point. The awkward construct of "quatre-vingt (dix-...)" for 80 and 90 survived because government bureaucrats shoved it down everyone's throats til it stuck. Government documents, for instance, would presumably be forced to use it, and from there usage would trickle down to the masses.

Dr. Drake
10-26-2014, 11:59 AM
Ugh, while consensus may truly prevail, that is irrelevant to my point. The awkward construct of "quatre-vingt (dix-...)" for 80 and 90 survived because government bureaucrats shoved it down everyone's throats til it stuck. Government documents, for instance, would presumably be forced to use it, and from there usage would trickle down to the masses.That doesn't really account for its creation or the first thousand-plus years of its survival. Did you think it was invented in 1635?The construction only feels awkward to you because your native language works differently.

KarlGauss
10-26-2014, 05:04 PM
Well, nice discussion ... held by english speaking people. :confused:
Time for a BELGIAN to fix some things. :D

[SNIP]

Curous if ANYONE will repond to or even READ this after so longI did! And I enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

BTW, welcome to The Straight Dope!

runningdude
10-26-2014, 06:02 PM
That doesn't really account for its creation or the first thousand-plus years of its survival. Did you think it was invented in 1635?
It was created as part of a rational system based on the number 20. It then survived because the elite and powerful liked it, and was eventually formalized by the government.

I would image the French Revolutionist would have wanted to do away with it, seeing as they tried to change the calendar and all that. Language purists probably reacted strongly against the change in response.
The construction only feels awkward to you because your native language works differently.
Seeing as Belgium and other areas developed alternatives for 70, 80 and 90, I don't think it is a stretch to say that it was due to central mandate in France that the construct ancien should be preserved.

runningdude
10-26-2014, 06:47 PM
The French Wikipedia articles "80 (nombre) (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/80_(nombre))" ant "Système_vicésimal (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syst%C3%A8me_vic%C3%A9simal)", while not vigorously sourced, describes an ancient system Base 20 systems using "vingt, deus-vingt, trois-vingt, quatre-vignt..." that became mixed with the decimal system following the Middle Ages. The French Academy choose this as its preferred method ("soixante-dix, quatre-vingt-dix, etc") when it was established in the 1600's.

Au XVIIe siècle, sous l'influence de Vaugelas et de Ménage, l'Académie française et les auteurs de dictionnaires ont adopté les formes soixante-dix, quatre-vingts, quatre-vingt-dix au détriment de septante, octante, nonante. Cependant, les mots septante, octante, nonante figurent dans toutes les éditions du Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. Encore conseillés par les Instructions officielles de 1945 pour faciliter l'apprentissage du calcul, ils restent connus dans l'usage parlé de nombreuses régions de l'Est et du Midi de la France, ainsi qu'en Acadie. Septante et nonante sont officiels en Belgique et Suisse romande (avec l'addition de huitante pour une partie de la Suisse romande, quatre-vingts étant utilisés à Genève et dans le Jura).

In the 17th Century, under the influence of of Vaugeles and Menage, the French Academy and the authors of its dictionaries adopted "soixante-dix, quatre-vingts, quatre-vingt-dix", deprecating "septante, octante, nonante". However, "septante, octante, nonante" have appeared in all editions of the Academy's dictionary. The terms are further recommended for use in teaching arithmetic by the Official Instructions of 1945, and continue to be used in the spoken language of the Eastern and Central regions of France. "Septante" and "nonante" are officially recognized in Belgium and in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland ("huitante" is also used in some parts, and "quatre-vingt" is used Geneva and Jura).

jovan
10-26-2014, 09:14 PM
Ugh, while consensus may truly prevail, that is irrelevant to my point. The awkward construct of "quatre-vingt (dix-...)" for 80 and 90 survived because government bureaucrats shoved it down everyone's throats til it stuck. Government documents, for instance, would presumably be forced to use it, and from there usage would trickle down to the masses.
No one shoved it down my throat. I say "quatre-vingt-onze" because that's what my parents, and everyone else around me said, and my children count the same way because that's the way I count.

You, like many English writers, give the Académie far too much power. The fact is that both decimal and vigesimal systems are as old as the French language. Historically, the vigesimal system was more common in western dialects, whereas the decimal system was more common in eastern dialects. While early prescriptivists like Vaugelas (yes, an original member of the Académie) discouraged the used of the decimal system, it survived in standard French well into the 18th century.

People in Belgium and Switzerland say "septante" because they always have. People in Canada say "soixante-dix" because their ancestors mostly came from western France and spoke western dialects -- "septante" was never used there. In France, "soixante-dix" is standard because western dialects won out, because that's what was spoken in Paris. Yes, the government played a large role in the standardization of language, but that's not at all a unique aspect of French. UK English is standardized on dialects spoken around London, Japanese is standardized on the Tokyo dialect. Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, and so on and so forth. The existence of an ineffectual prescriptivist organisation (<- that's the spelling that was shoved down my throat by my government) in France should be little more than a footnote.

slaphead
10-27-2014, 03:45 AM
One interesting result of this is the English word "teenager." The nearest equivalent in, say, Spanish is the cognate of "adolescent" -- the Spanish numbering system doesn't produce a handy word like this. I suppose a word could have developed like *diesialgo for someone aged 16 to 19, and might have reinforced some concept of "late adolescence." That the lowest English "-teen" number happens to coincide more or less with the onset of puberty is just a lucky coincidence. Average puberty onset has been getting earlier in recent decades; I wonder if, in some subtle way, the English-speaking mind is having trouble internalizing this fact, because it breaks the neat concept of "teenager."

Just because no-one has mentioned it yet, traditional british sheep counting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_tan_tethera) rhymes seem to work in five-groups making up twenty, with unique words for one through ten, fifteen and twenty. 11-14 and 16-19 are then constructed using the five-multiple+whatever method.

Using this system, those awkward young adolescent years from ten to fourteen would be 'the dick[or dix/dik] years', fifteen to nineteen would become 'the bumfit years', and relative sanity finally arrives at the age of jiggit (or figgot in Lincolnshire).

The system deserves wider popularity for this reason alone.

Kobal2
10-27-2014, 10:46 AM
Just because no-one has mentioned it yet, traditional british sheep counting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_tan_tethera) rhymes seem to work in five-groups making up twenty, with unique words for one through ten, fifteen and twenty. 11-14 and 16-19 are then constructed using the five-multiple+whatever method.

That might be theoretically based on the ancient Roman counting system : they, too, designated numbers as "5 and N" or "N shy of 4 tens" and so on, with a word for 20. Jiggit does sound kinda like a viginti wot went through a thresher, too :).

Dates used a similar format, interestingly : they had Kalends, Nones and Ides as "reference days" each month, and other days were "3 days after the Kalends", "a week before the next Nones" and so forth.

clairobscur
10-28-2014, 09:26 AM
No one shoved it down my throat. I say "quatre-vingt-onze" because that's what my parents, and everyone else around me said, and my children count the same way because that's the way I count.
.

And as I wrote in a previous thread on the same topic, I even never realized that quatre-vingt meant...well, quatre vingts, until very late (possibly until it was pointed out to me), despite it being blatantly obvious. For me, quatre-vingt was just the number 80, and I never stopped to think about its actual meaning.

leahcim
10-28-2014, 09:45 AM
Using this system, those awkward young adolescent years from ten to fourteen would be 'the dick[or dix/dik] years',

As a former horny young male preteen, I agree with this characterization.

No one shoved it down my throat. I say "quatre-vingt-onze" because that's what my parents, and everyone else around me said, and my children count the same way because that's the way I count.

Indeed counting is one of those things that is very hard not to do the way you were taught growing up. I took math with some Quebecois who all, when it came time to do arithmetic, switched back to French. I expect that even if the French Academy said today, "we're getting rid of all of this vigesimal crap" people would cling to the way they were taught.

jovan
10-29-2014, 01:00 AM
And as I wrote in a previous thread on the same topic, I even never realized that quatre-vingt meant...well, quatre vingts, until very late (possibly until it was pointed out to me), despite it being blatantly obvious. For me, quatre-vingt was just the number 80, and I never stopped to think about its actual meaning.

Exactly, it was the same thing for me too. Just as it took me a long time to realise that "aujourd'hui" starts with "on the day of."

That being said, I'm watching my own kids, who are native Japanese speakers, and they're having a much easier time learning to count (in Japanese) than I did (in French). When I was their age being able to count to 100 was a big deal. My three year-old daughter gets bored around 45, but she could easily count to 999 if she had the stamina. The difficulty is not in the vigesimal system. That's little more than etymology. The main problem for young learners is that you have to remember the words for 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90. That's not really different from English. Children need to know that it's "thirty" and not "threety," "fifty" and not "fivety," and once you throw exceptions in there, the whole series becomes suspect even if there is some order.

Saint Cad
10-29-2014, 11:22 AM
Just nipped me, but I still wanted to say that I don't think English ever used a duodecimal system.

Before decimalization, how many pence in a shilling?

robert_columbia
10-29-2014, 12:07 PM
Only half the numbers are odd, really.

Even the other half.

That is very odd.

robert_columbia
10-29-2014, 12:08 PM
Before decimalization, how many pence in a shilling?

It was 12, and there were 20 shillings in a pound. Even Americans know this.

robert_columbia
10-29-2014, 12:11 PM
Just because no-one has mentioned it yet, traditional british sheep counting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_tan_tethera) rhymes seem to work in five-groups making up twenty, with unique words for one through ten, fifteen and twenty. 11-14 and 16-19 are then constructed using the five-multiple+whatever method.

Using this system, those awkward young adolescent years from ten to fourteen would be 'the dick[or dix/dik] years', fifteen to nineteen would become 'the bumfit years', and relative sanity finally arrives at the age of jiggit (or figgot in Lincolnshire).

The system deserves wider popularity for this reason alone.

I've heard that some scholars suspect that the nursery rhyme "Hickory Dickory Dock" and the selection rhyme "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" come out of traditional Celtic counting systems like that. So when people started singing "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe, catch a <whatever> by his toe...", they were trying to do what a more modern person would render as "One, two, three, four, behind the door..." or something like that.

Dr. Drake
10-29-2014, 12:24 PM
I've heard that some scholars suspect that the nursery rhyme "Hickory Dickory Dock" and the selection rhyme "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" come out of traditional Celtic counting systems like that. So when people started singing "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe, catch a <whatever> by his toe...", they were trying to do what a more modern person would render as "One, two, three, four, behind the door..." or something like that.Sort of. "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," is pretty clearly "eight, nine, ten" from a traditional counting system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_tan_tethera) that probably came from British Celtic and spent a few hundred years as an English dialect feature (whence the rhyme).

"Eeny meeny miney moe" is probably similar, but again, the only one of these that's recognizably a number is "een" ("one"), probably with the English diminutive -ie on the end. "Een" might well be Celtic, but it could also have come from another Indo-European language.

Saint Cad
10-29-2014, 01:11 PM
It was 12, and there were 20 shillings in a pound. Even Americans know this.

Exactly so the English did have at least one duodecimal system in place everyone would have been familiar with.

Dr. Drake
10-29-2014, 01:13 PM
Exactly so the English did have at least one duodecimal system in place everyone would have been familiar with.But the English number words, one through twelve, are decimal, which I think was the point.

You can use decimal numbers to count by twelves. You can use vigesimal numbers to count by twelve, as the Welsh do when they tell time.

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