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# Deriving fractions and percentages (was: [Theory] Types of numerals)

From: Yahya Abdal-Aziz Wednesday, January 18, 2006, 12:06
```Hi all,

On Tue, 17 Jan 2006 tomhchappell wrote:
[snip]
> > But 1/4 seems generally (always?) to be derived from a word for 4,
>
> Interesting.  I didn't know that.[snip]

Not always!  Altho Malay does have "sa-perempat"
meaning "one part of four", just as English has
"one-fourth" with the same meaning, it also has a
primitive(*) word "suku", one of whose meanings is
"quarter".  Its other common meaning matches, I
think, French "quartier" (for a "suburb") in an
abstract way - by generalisation from an exact
"quarter" it also means "a part or division".  This is
evident in the set phrase "suku sakat" for "relatives",
"sakat" meaning "family" in the sense of "all persons
of common ancestry".  Still, I do not know whether
in Malay the meaning "part" became specialised as
"quarter", or whether "quarter" generalised to "part".
There is a parallel in the usage of "half" in English,
which during my lifetime I have seen change from
quite commonly meaning "one of two parts" to
almost always meaning "one of two exactly equal
parts".

(*) I call it "primitive" to indicate I do not know of
its derivation from any other word; not to imply that
it is not derived from some other word!  A purely
subjective usage, I 'm afraid ...

ObConLang:
Malay and English offer two different models for
a perfectly productive construction meaning "one part
of <cardinal>":

. English - "one-<cardinal>th"

. Malay - "sa-per<cardinal>"

The Malay form "sa-perempat" can be analysed as
follows:
"empat" = the cardinal number "four"
"perempat" = "to make four parts of, to divide into
four" v. hence "a fourth part" n.
"sa" = the cardinal number "one"
"sa-perempat" = "one fourth part"

Percentages in Malay are constructed the same way:
"50 per cent" = "limapuluh peratus"
from:
"lima" = the cardinal number "five"
"puluh" = "a group of ten"
"ratus" = "a group of hundred" and
the prefix "pe-" (with allomorphs pem-, pen-, peng-,
peny-, per- depending on the context).

And of course "fifty hundredths" is perfectly
comprehensible, if unusual, in English.

How do your conlangs derive fractions and percentages?

Regards,
Yahya

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