Number Words & Number Systems

Richard Parker richardparker01 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Apr 28 07:18:27 UTC 2007

Roger Mills wrote:
  >Richard Parker wrote:
>> Nghada and Lio in Flores have zua butu (2-4), and ruambutu 
  >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]'.
  It becomes clearer when you see the full 1-10 numbers sequence in 
  Nghada, Lio and (another Flores group I've only just found), 
  Ende, from the same twiglet of MP, Bima-Sumba-Ende-Lio:
  Lio - esa, rua, têlu, sutu, lima, lima esa, lima rua, ruambutu, 
  terrasa, sambulu 
Ngada - esa, zua, telu, wutu, lima, lima esa, lima zua, zua butu, 
  ta esa, sabulu 
Ende - assa, rua, taru, wutu, rima, rima assa, rima rua, rua 
  mbutu, tarassa, samburu 
  There's a very clear counting system:
1,2,3,4,5 (standard PAn symbolic words, ie, not referring 
  directly to any particular hand part) then, also using PAn 
  symbol-words: 5-1, 5-2, 2-4, then "something" meaning 
  "last-but-one?" then PAn 10. 
  There's a similar system working in Gaura (Kodi), Weyewa, and 
  Lamboya, on Sumba, also in the Bima-Sumba language group, where 8 
  is pondopata, 4 is pata. 
  9, in Gaura and Lamboya, is banda'iha and 
kabanina. In Weyewa, it's iwa, which is your plain old bog 
standard PAn. 
These Nusa Tenggara languages use almost the same counting system as:
  Saisiyat - ?aha?, rosha?, too?, shepat, aseb, sayboshi:, sayboshi 
  o ?aha?, kashpat, aa?h?a, langpez
except that Saisiyat uses a different, and more 'archaic' 
  construction for 6,7, and 10.
  Favorlang - natta, roa, torro, naspaat, achab, rima, addas, 
  nataap, maaspat, tannacho, zchiett
  Both use a construction involving 1 in "last-but-one" - 9, 
  as do Lio, Ngada, and Ende, 2000 miles from Taiwan.
  And now that I'm looking harder for this kind of construction, of 
  the number 8 in particular, some similar ones turn up again at 
  the very far East End of New Guinea (under the Papuan 'tail')
  Nara - kaonamo, lua, koi, vani, ima, kalakoi, kalakoika, 
  kalavani, kalavanika, ouka 
  Gabadi - ka, rua, koi, vani, ima, karakoi, isu, karavani, 
  karavanika, ouka 
Motu - ta, rua, toi, hani, ima, tauratoi, hitu, taura hani, taura 
  hani ta, gwauta 
  Sinagoro - ta, lualua, toitoi, vativati, imaima, taulatoitoi, 
  taulatoitoi, tebona, taulavativati, taulavativati tebona, 
  (It's the details that count, and these four use 8-1 for 9, not 
  'last-but-one', so, perhaps, their number systems are not 
  directly correlated with the Taiwan and Flores systems, which 
  clearly are closely related - as numbering systems, I stress).
The 'reduction system' Roger Mills mentioned, of counting 7-9 
  back from the end, is common on Manus Island, 175 miles off the 
  North New Guinea coast, where a typical example is:
  Leipon - djix, marui, madjalo, mahah, malimeh, mawono, 
  mandadjalo, mandurui, mandudix, sungol. 
Roger Mills also wrote:
  >>[RP] 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).
  Tarangan (Aru) - etna, rugwa, lat, kaw, lem, dom, dubam, karugwa, 
  ser, urpepa. 
8 is clearly related to 2, and probably, via kaw, to 4. 
  Something similar to the reduction system happens in South 
  Buginese - seua, dua, tellu, eppa, lima, enneng, pitu, arua, 
  asera, pulo 
  and in another 5 local (Tamanic?) languages, where 8 and 9 relate 
  to 2 and 1.
  >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. 
  I haven't a library of any sort within 5 days journey. Could I 
  possibly ask for someone to scan these and email them to me?
>The languages you're looking at 
>presumably have been influenced by non-AN neighbors or 
  I'm looking at ALL the An number systems (that I can find) east 
  of Sulawesi - about 600 of them, plus 110 non-An languages that 
  are still-existing neighbours. (Sub-note to John Lynch, Ross 
  Clark and Alex Francois - those 116 Vanuatu languages don't half 
  clog up the system!)
And this is important - when I'm searching for correspondences 
  between number systems, or morphemes, I'm blind to the location 
  of the languages, simply because that info doesn't show up on the 
  page. So, if I mention somewhat unbelievable relationships, they 
  are there, but, as yet, I have no idea how to connect them.
  Neighbour influence - These should be obvious, as in Alor (An), 
  where 10 is kartow. It's isolated and surrounded by non-An 
  languages of the Trans New Guinea phylum where 10 is karnok or 
  karnuku, which means, basically, kar-1.(And what does kar mean?) 
  In Alor kartow is kar-tohu (tohu=1). 
  This leads through to a host of local SE Maluku/Timorese 
  languages, where 10 is hutu, hutusa, futusa, futtota, etc.
  Mostly, though, it seems that An number morphemes leak into the 
  local non-An languages. But I will be checking on each and every 
  Substrates - There were replaced substrate languages wherever An 
  spread, but the only remaining clues to what they were lie in 
  their existing non-An neighbour languages, or in hypothetical 
  non-An 'relicts' in certain languages. So I'm checking 
  every single neighbour non-An language, because, if one of them went
  off to talk Austronesian, he might have left his uncles and aunties
  behind, talking 'the Old Stuff'.
  Karl Anderbeck has just found the only remaining (equivalent, at the 
  very least, to proto-MP) substrate language in the west ISEA (south of 
  Sumatra, and not connected to Austro-Asiatic in the Malay 
  Peninsula) - Enggano.
  The Enggano number system is:
  Enggano - kehei, ?eru, akir, aop, ariyb, ariyb he kahai?, abai 
  kahai?, apa? yop, akira kin keak, kipaao? 
  This has a clear number structure of:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5-1 (6), then:
  'something a bit different' - 1 (7), 
  'apa -4' (8) 
  3-x-y (9) 
  and 10 looks to me something like '1st-double-hand' 
  Doesn't this numbering structure have a little resemblance to the 
  Saisyat/Favorlang or Ende/Lio/Ngada numbering systems?
  The Enggano ariyb (5) very obviously has some connection to the 
  Taiwan: Pazeh, Saisiyat and Favorlang:  xaseb, aseb and achab (5). 
  kipaao? - Pa'a means 'thigh' here in Siargao, but still means 
  hand in most of Micronesia, and 5 in Tahiti. "Next-hand finish?"
  Obviously, judging from the above, I'm speculating a great deal, but not without some reason. 
  Perhaps I should just get on with it, and shut up until I've got 
  something conclusive to report.
  But I really do need all the help I can get, so I ask for your patience.
  Richard Parker
Siargao Island, The Philippines. 
  My website at is about the island and its people,  coastal early humans, fishing, coconuts, bananas and whatever took my fancy at the time.
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