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Re: Numbers and math

From:Irina Rempt <ira@...>
Date:Thursday, September 28, 2000, 21:00
On Thu, 21 Sep 2000, taliesin the storyteller wrote:

> A classic question is: how do you count to ten in your conlang?
1 chan - this is a declinable nominal form of class II 2 ilea (animate), ili (inanimate) - this is a dual pronoun, it also means "them two, both of them" 3 besh Most other numbers are indeclinable. 4 moch 5 ran 6 raich 7 sean 8 imoch "double four" 9 cush 10 iran "double five"; _rain_ is "hand", probably related iransen "a count of ten", "a double handful" (of countables). Not necessarily exactly 10. irashen, literally "a count of twelve", "enough, plenty" (of uncountables). Not the same as... 12 iraich "a dozen"; when counting, you go "iran chan, iran ili, iran besh" and so on, but _iraich_ is for a group of (exactly) twelve belonging together, like eggs. The most common application of the word is for the 12 riders (large silver coin worth about a week's wages for a skilled craftsman) that constitute the usual fee paid to the master someone is apprenticed to. 20 aran "all the fives" - clearly from counting on fingers and toes! 30 beshi "threes" 40 mochi "fours" etcetera, up to ... 100 irani "double-fives", "tens" 200 arani "twenties" iranisin "hundreds", used to form the hundreds. Note that there's no word for "a thousand", you have to say _iranisin iran_ "ten hundred".
> Generalizing: > - do you form ordinals from cardinals? how? if not, how?
Yes. By prefixing za-: zachan, zalea, zabesh, etcetera.
> - do you have a zero?
You use _nali_, a pronoun meaning "nothing". I don't know (yet) how numbers are written, probably with letters, but I do know that a single dot is used for zero, called _nalinsen_ "nothing-thing". Spots on an animal, freckles or polka dots on fabric are also called _nalinsin_; it's kind of a joke and there probably was another word for it before people started writing numbers, but that's no longer used.
> - can numbers be negative?
Probably. Don't know how to do it, though. (a little cat popped up on my screen as I typed that, said "The answer is 42." in a bright yellow text balloon, and is now washing itself :-)
> - fractions? percentiles? if it's not a decimal system, is there > something instead of percentiles?
Fractions: with the partitive postposition _bez_ "out of": _besh bez crinsen_ "a part out of three", _besh bez crinsin ili_ "two parts out of three", that is, two-thirds. There's a separate word for "half": _ile_ or _jile_ (just variations in spelling; stressed initial /i/ is pronounced [ji].
> - how do you add, subtract, multiply and divide? (if you know how) > - what about raising to the nth power and n-roots?
I've never thought much about any of those. I haven't met many mathematicians :-) Irina -- Varsinen an laynynay, saraz no arlet rastynay. (myself)