On 8 July 2011 09:49, Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> On Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 21:54, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > The shear weirdness of the Danish number system is overwhelming! Do
> Danish
> > people think of those truly as compounds, or are they felt as units of
> > meaning, like we French people feel about things like "quatre-vingt"?
> I don't know for sure, but I assume they feel them as units of meaning
> - especially since the common forms of the cardinal numbers omit the
> "twenty" morpheme. (I believe it's still obligatory to include it in
> the ordinal forms.)
I'd expect that as well.

> So I think that, say, "halvtreds" is just as much a unit to a Dane as
> "fifty" is to an English speaker, not analysed as "five-ten".
> I do wonder whether "fire" (4), "fyrre" (40), and "firs" (80)
> occasionally produce ambiguity - but perhaps not more than, say,
> "fourteen" and "forty".
Yeah, English teens and tens are an endless source of confusion, especially
on the phone! That's why I don't worry that much when my number systems end
up with potential confusions. If English people cope, anyone can! ;P

> And I find it interesting that the vigesimal method doesn't seem to
> start until 50 - 20 is "tyve", 30 is "tredve" or "tredive" - which
> looks a bit like _tre_ "3" + _tyve_ to me -, and 40 is "fyrre", then
> 50 is "halvtreds" < "halvtredsindstyve", the aforementioned "half
> three times twenty" (compare the ordinal "halvtredsindstyvende).
> Though looking on Wikipedia, "fortieth" is "fyrretyvende", which seems
> odd to me; it looks like "forty-twentieth".
It's still earlier than in French where it starts at 70!

> Oddly enough, 60 is "tres(indstyve)"; I don't know why 50 =
> "halvtreds(indstyve)" has -ds while 60 = "tres(indstyve)" only has -s.
> That d/no-d pattern is repeated in 70 = "halvfjerds(indstyve)" (cf.
> _fjerde_ "fourth") and 80 = "firs(indstyve)".
> Then you have 90 = "halvfems(indstyve)" without -d-. But 100 is not
> "fems" :) Instead, you have the more-or-less expected "hundred(e)".
Danish is a fascinating language. Too bad I can't pronounce the stød
reliably enough...

> Arabic does the order thing but not just the digits; I think 1783 is
> "three and eighty and seven-hundred and a thousand".

Indeed. But Arabic numerals are an entirely different piece of cake! (well,
at least the MSA numerals. Dialects have simplified them in various ways).

> (So their writing
> the numbers left-to-right [or so it seems to our conventions],
> embedded in right-to-left writing, makes a bit more sense - the
> numbers are read from right to left as well!)
Actually, the weirdest part about writing numbers in Arabic is that they
tend to be written *left-to-right*! It makes sense neither when comparing to
the normal writing direction of Arabic, nor when comparing to how they
actually pronounce numbers! If they just wrote numbers right-to-left in the
order of pronunciation they would still end up with the same figures, and
they wouldn't have to change writing direction in the middle of a line...

I'm not sure if they do that in the whole Arabic world, but I've seen it
with my own eyes in Oman at least, with the actual Arabic numerals (their
version, not ours).

> I've always thought of it as "halfway towards the third twenty (from
> the second)" - I wonder how Danes think about it - if indeed they ever
> do?
I'm not quite sure they'd have time :) . Too busy counting! ;P

> It might depend on how they express numbers such as "two-and-a-half";
> some languages have special forms along the lines of "halfway towards
> three".

German only has one remnant of this: "one-and-a-half" is "anderthalb",
> which I think is etymologically something like "the second half".
Like Dutch "anderhalf". According to the Wikipedia page Danish has a similar
word: "halvanden", litterally "half-second", as well as "halvtredje" for 2½
and "halvfjerde" for 3½, but those last two are nearly obsolete.
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.