Of Languages and Numbers
Counting is a wonderful skill that allows us to grasp both time and space. To measure the time between two events, to detect and predict cycles, to describe the world in terms of a journey’s length, these are the primordial things a being able to count can do and share with others.
Counting on our fingers defined the mere representation of space around us to such an extend that it is still in use nowadays in the base of the most used numbering systems. The quinary system, or base 5 counting, uses the fingers of one hand; the decimal system (base 10) uses both hands; the vigesimal system (base 20) uses both fingers and toes. Of course, other bases have been devised and used by different cultures, embodied in their language now extinct or still alive.
I invite you to a journey through some numbering systems via this site to give you a hint of the richness of languages when it comes to give a name to that very big level of abstraction represented by numbers.
Zi, zay, za, ze… And after?
- How to count in Tswana
- How to count in Zulu (updated)
- How to count in Xhosa (updated)
- How to count in Mwotlap