Counting in Gilbertese
Gilbertese (Kiribati) is a language from the Austronesian family, belonging to the Oceanian branch and the Micronesian subbranch. Most of the Kiribati speakers (97%) live on the Kiribati island, other speakers live in Rabi Island (Fiji), Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Nui (Tuvalu) and Vanuatu. Kiribati counts about 102,000 speakers.
Gilbertese numbers list
- 1 – teuana
- 2 – uoua
- 3 – tenua
- 4 – aua
- 5 – nimaua
- 6 – onoua
- 7 – itua
- 8 – wanua
- 9 – ruaiwa
- 10 – tebwina
- 11 – tebwi ma teuana
- 12 – tebwi ma uoua
- 13 – tebwi ma tenua
- 14 – tebwi ma aua
- 15 – tebwi ma nimaua
- 16 – tebwi ma onoua
- 17 – tebwi ma itua
- 18 – tebwi ma wanua
- 19 – tebwi ma ruaiwa
- 20 – uabwi
- 30 – tenibwi
- 40 – abwi
- 50 – nimabwi
- 60 – onobwi
- 70 – itibwi
- 80 – wanibwi
- 90 – ruabwi
- 100 – tebubua
- 1,000 – tengaa
- one million – te mirion
- one billion – te birian
Kiribati numerical classifiers
Numerical classifiers are suffixes applied on the digits roots. They are organized in many categories, but the most used are the following:
- -ua: general classifier, used for common objects, when the classifer is not known, as well as for periods of time. It is the classifier most often used for general counting.
- -man: animate things (people, animals, birds, insects and most fish, except very large ones, which use -ai)
- -kai: trees, shrubs, land sections and fish-hooks
- -ai: large fish, fingers, teeth, timbers, and other object of elongated shape (sticks, pencils, bottles, rulers, knives…)
- -waa: modes of transport (boats, canoes, cars, planes…)
- -baa: leaves, sheets of paper, flat objects
Gilbertese numbering rules
Now that you’ve had a gist of the most useful numbers, let’s move to the writing rules for the tens, the compound numbers, and why not the hundreds, the thousands and beyond (if possible).
- Digits from one to nine are based on specific roots followed with the generic classifier -ua: akea  (which means nothing), teuana  (root: te-, suffix -na), uoua  (its root uo- only appears with the general classifier -ua and the classifier for animate things -man. In all other cases, it appears as ua-), tenua  (root: ten(i)-), aua  (root: a-), nimaua  (root: nima-), onoua  (root: ono-), itua  (root: it(i)-), wanua  (root: wan(i)-), and ruaiwa  (root: ruai-). The forms of three, seven and eight using the letter i (teniua , itiua , and waniua ) only appear in Southern Kiribati.
- Tens are formed by suffixing the root of the multiplier digit with the tens classifier -bwi: tebwina  (from te-, suffixed with -na), uabwi  (and not uobwi), tenibwi , abwi , nimabwi , onobwi , itibwi , wanibwi , and ruabwi .
- Compound numbers are formed by linking the ten to the unit with the word ma (and/with), ten itself being shortened for numbers from eleven to nineteen as it looses its -na suffix: tebwi ma uoua , tenibwi ma teuana .
- Hundreds are formed by suffixing the root of the multiplier digit with the word for hundred (bubua): tebubua , uabubua , tenibubua , abubua , nimabubua , onobubua , itibubua , wanibubua , and ruabubua .
- In the compound hundreds with units, the word ma is replaced with ao (and): uabubua ao tenua , nimabubua ao teuana . There is no linking word between hundreds and tens (e.g.: itibubua wanibwi ma uoua ).
- Thousands are generally constructed by preceding the word for thousand (tengaa) by the multiplier digit. Most of the time, however, the root -ngaa is simply preceded by the root numeral prefix: (teuana) tengaa/tengaa [1,000], uoua tengaa/uangaa [2,000], teniua tengaa/teningaa [3,000], aua tengaa/angaa [4,000]…
- In the compound thousands with tens or units, the word ma is replaced with ao (and): uangaa ao tenua [2,003], angaa ao uabwi [4,020]. There is no linking word between thousands and hundreds (e.g.: angaa nimabubua [4,500]).
- Millions are usually formed by setting the multiplier before the expression for one million te mirion (borrowed from the English million), except for one million itself: te mirion [1 million], tenibubua te mirion [300 million].
- Billions are formed like millions, i.e. usually formed by setting the multiplier before the expression for one billion te birian (borrowed from the English billion), except for one billion itself: te birian [1 billion], tenibubua te birian [300 billion].
- In the old traditional Kiribati system, for numbers of 1,000 and higher, the numeral prefixes were used with the forms for one thousand, ten thousand and further multiples of ten on up to a billion: te ngaa [1,000], te rebu [10,000], te kuri [100,000], te ea [1 million], te tano [10 million], and te taki [100 million].
Write a number in full in Gilbertese
Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Gilbertese. Will you guess how to write a number in full? Enter a number and try to write it down in your head, or maybe on a piece of paper, before displaying the result.
- Kiribati, by Stephen Trussel
Central Malayo-Polynesian languages
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