Number Words & Number Systems - Plea for lexical help

Richard Parker richardparker01 at YAHOO.COM
Wed May 2 06:09:50 UTC 2007

I have posted a stripped down worksheet at:
  The major lexical help I need is on the numbers, 5, 6, and 10.  
  It lists all the number words I am looking at, with a column for 
  each number 1-10, and a row for each language. 
  It starts at the top with other regional language families, then 
  Taiwan, a few WMP languages for comparison, and roughly straight 
  east, from Maluku, via Nusa Tenggara, New Guinea, Bismarcks, 
  Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, then to Polynesia, with an 
  offshoot to Micronesia. 
  As near as possible neighbouring languages 
  are shown in sequence, and non-An languages are slotted in 
  (remembering that most of these are not L or R of An language 
  groups, but behind, in the hills). 
  The file is downloadable, so anyone could treat it as an ongoing 
  Sudoku or crossword puzzle, filling blanks as inspiration arrives. 
  (I really don't ask for anyone to expend hard sweat, but any clues 
  as to what these words mean would be a great help).
  5 - is used in about half of the non-symbolic systems to make up 
  6-9. Lima is the most obvious and frequent word, but sometimes it 
  is the same as the speaker's own word for 'hand', and otherwise 
  something else altogether. In 'early' systems it may be  qualified 
  as 'hand-1'. I also have a column for 'hand' where I have 
  I only have a very few clues to anything else on '5' words:
  Cebuano and Surigaonon have a hand-measure (the distance from 
  thumb-tip to finger-tips of a spread  hand, about 8" -  dangaw). 
  This seems related to the Malay tangan and the Ura (Vanuatu) denge 
  for hand, but to nothing else in Cebuano or Surigaonon. Our thumb 
  is kumagko. Fist is kuma, but these two morphemes draw a complete 
  blank anywhere else.
  Bani-gu means 'my hand/arm' in Vures, from the Banks Islands 
  (thanks, Alex Francois) and bani-, pani-,  means 'wing' or even 
  'hand/arm' in many languages.
  This seems to connect to '5' words from tambiang (Ilongot, Luzon), 
  biangke haits, baing lefen, pangging lefen, baing lehem, bangi 
  takanan, nima papani, (all NE NG), aipan and tapanim (Admiralty 
  Is),  but also to Papuan (Non-An) words for 5 such as bang-kud'ai, 
  i:bong-gud', rapaung.
  6- is often another completely different word or set of words, 
  used for making up 6-9. I once assumed they meant something like 
  next hand, fist, thumb, but I haven't found much to confirm these speculations.
  I have - other, left, right, squeeze (connects to fist), this, that, 
  person, say, see, and other words in some An languages from the 
  ABVD, but have so far drawn a complete blank on connections with 
  any of these '6' words.
  Otto Dempwolff (I assume) contributed some notes to the ABVD 
  wordlist entry on the Yabem An language of N New Guinea:
  where he explains 6 - lemengteng ngano ta as 'our hand right one', 
  but I think he might have been wrong. Right is anonga, but ngano 
  is correct or true.
  Which leaves me baffled.
  10 is usually some variation on *sa-puluq, but is sometimes just 
  5-5, 2-5, or a derivative of whatever 6 was. 
  Does anyone have a persuasive etymology for *sa-puluq ?
  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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