Number Words & Number Systems

Roger Mills rfmilly at MSN.COM
Tue Apr 24 06:26:08 UTC 2007

Richard Parker wrote:
> Nghada and Lio in Flores have zua butu (2-4), and ruambutu (2-4).

Does _(m)butu_ in fact mean '4'? In the Tanimbar lgs. (Fordata vutu, Yamdena 
buti, Kei wut) its reflex means '10'. (Forms I assume to be cognate in other 
languages of the area--e.g. Tetum, Timorese, Savu, likely Fiji too-- suggest 
a basic meaning "bundle".) Thus it's possible the Ngadha and Lio forms are 
subtractive, something like 'two/second [from 10]'.

> West Tarangan has Karugwa (4-2), Ujir - karua, Dobel - ?aro, Kola
>   - kaFarua, all in Aru.

I'd strongly hypothesize the same for these; in fact there may be influence 
from Bugis as a likely contact language, since AFAIK these are uncommon 
constructions in Moluccan languages (many retain reflexes of *walu and 
*siwa)-- Bug. aru(w)á '8' (*ka+dua) as well as aserá '9' (*ka+sera, though 
_sera_ is not easily relatable to the word for 'one', se?de-- and the final 
stress is anomalous in both words).

Otto Chr. Dahl wrote an extensive article on AN numbers ca. 1981 in NUSA; I 
believe he also deals with them in one of his books-- though as I recall, 
mainly within the Taiwan-PI-Indonesia area. The languages you're looking at 
presumably have been influenced by non-AN neighbors or substrates. 

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