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CHAT: IE numbers (was: Icelandic Numbers (was: Re: CHAT: San Marino))

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Wednesday, August 30, 2000, 6:55
At 1:43 am +0000 30/8/00, Oskar Gudlaugsson wrote:
>number declension system. When reading about IE, I also somehow got the >understanding that even in that language, the number 4 was undeclined. But >couldn't be true, I mean, how could Icelandic/Old Norse just make up such a >declension? It usually goes the other way, right?
Exactly. 'four' was certainly declined in PIE. The numbers 'one', 'two', 'three' and 'four' were fully declined in ancient Greek and IIRC in Sanskrit. Only 'dyo' (two), which had the moribund dual endings, became invariable before the end of the ancient Greek period. From there on, things have remained much the same till the present day. Modern Greek still declines the numbers 'one', 'three' and 'four'. The declension of 'four' in the modern language is: Masc. & fem. neuter Nom. téssereis téssera Acc. téssereis téssera Gen. tessérwn tessérwn (w = omega) Not much variation, I admit, but still some :) The Brittonic languages have long given up case distinctions, but they retain gender distinctions in the numbers 1 through 4, thus: WELSH BRETON CORNISH 'Unified' Kemmyn 'Modern' two (masc. dau daou deu dew deaw (fem. dwy diou dyw diw dew three (masc. tri tri try tri try (fem. tair teir tyr teyr tayr four (masc. pedwar pevar peswar peswar pager (fem. pedair peder peder peder peder 'one' also originally declined, but is now invariable in all the languages (un; unan; un, unn, edn); however, in all the feminine causes soft mutation of a following noun, whereas the masculine does not. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================