Counting by 10s vs. 20s

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Thu Aug 22 16:56:46 UTC 2013

The standard theory is that it was borrowed from Celtic languages spoken in the area where French developed . Some Celtic languages do indeed have 'vigesimal' counting systems ((Breton, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish all have or had it) .
Others think the borrowing went the other way round. Vennemann (whom some of you know) thinks it's Basque in origin.
There's some discussion in the Wikipedia article on Vigesimal counting systems

but any comprehensive recent history of French would cover it in some considerable detail.

Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)

Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email looks.

----- Original Message -----

> From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:48:58 AM
> Subject: Counting by 10s vs. 20s

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Counting by 10s vs. 20s
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

> What is the received wisdom why English counts the God-given natural
> numbers by tens, whereas French counts them by
> twenties? Did European serfs of colder Northern Europe wear shoes,
> while the peasants of warmer Southern Europe went barefoot?

> (Only the second question above is facetious; I am curious about the
> first question.)

> Joel

> ------------------------------------------------------------
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