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NATLANG: Special small numbers

From:Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
Date:Saturday, December 1, 2001, 23:27
> Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2001 21:07:30 -0000 > From: Michael Poxon <m.poxon@...> > > > From: "David Peterson" <DigitalScream@...> > > Sent: Friday, November 30, 2001 1:14 AM > > > In a message dated 11/29/01 1:14:49 PM, james.hogard@JUNO.COM writes: > > << Czech has a similar division, but I'm not familiar with other Slavic > > languages. Is this some remnant of dual number? >> > > > > My Russian teacher indicated "yes". For instance, that you say > > [dvje] rather than [dva] when you use it to modify...feminine > > nouns? I'd actually like to hear more about this from some of the > > more experience Slavic studiers on this list. > > Welsh and Breton also have separate forms of 2,3, and 4 depending on whether > the noun is masc or fem. The word for 6 also varies in ending, not for > gender, but for liaison.
There's several different things involved here... IE had singular, dual and plurals numbers, of course --- and the numerals one to four were inflected as adjectives, taking appropriate endings for their own number and the gender of the counted noun (and case from the syntactical context of the noun phrase). So one was inflected as a singular, two as a dual, three and four as plurals. This is what's still happening in Welsh and Breton. (In IE, the noun was inflected in the same grammatical number and case as well). Apart from Sam.skr.t.a, which does have full dual inflection, there are several other IE languages that retain traces. The number two is often among them, along with the word for both, and some irregular plural forms for words that tend to occur in pairs (eyes, arms, shoes, for instance) --- and that would be why [dva]/[dvje] is irregular in Russian. The Slavic phenomenon that was originally discussed, involves the case of the noun that's counted --- this is conceivably a trace of dual inflection on the noun (which would have been generalized to slightly larger numbers), but it may also be something that arose in Slavic itself. Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <thorinn@...> (Humour NOT marked)