講者：Eugene S. L. Chan (陳西林) /Cooperative Researcher, Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany
講題：Endangered Numeral Systems of the World's Languages
The existing 7,000 or so languages in the world are a common cultural treasure of humanity. Yet, it is predicted that only half of the world's languages will survive in the next century. Urgent actions to rescue and document endangered languages have been undertaken by some countries in recent years. The surviving thousands of the world's ethnic groups use a variety of different numeral systems: duodecimal systems, decimal systems, quinary systems (based on five), quaternary systems, binary systems, incomplete decimal systems, mixed systems, body-part tally systems and so on. Certain South American indigenous languages even only distinguish one and many, and a few languages without numerals. These fascinating phenomena, like a kaleidoscope, reflect the diversity and different development steps of human counting concepts.
In this talk I shall introduce my on-going project to document the numeral systems of the world’s languages and their genetic classification, phonological systems, and counting concepts. In the last thirty years I have recorded and analyzed the numeral systems of the world's languages, and so far have successfully collected data on the basic numeral systems of around 4,400 languages. Most of the data were kindly provided by linguists, anthropologists, and other scholars working in their respective fields. The majority of the data are recorded in standard IPA symbols or phonemic transcriptions. These Numeral Systems of the World's Languages research is made accessible at the website entitled Numeral Systems of the World's Languages:
As the traditional numeral systems of small languages have been rapidly replaced by those of dominant languages, it is an urgent task to document these important linguistic data before they are completely forgotten. However, more complete data for the remaining 2,600 or so languages are not yet available, so we need further generous support from fellow linguists.
Keyword 1: Decimal systems
Keyword 2. Incomplete decimal systems
Keyword 3: Decimal systems with heavy loans
Keyword 4: Duodecimal systems
Keyword 5: Quinary systems
Keyword 6: Vigesimal systems using hands, feet and persons
Keyword 7: Quaternary systems
Keyword 8: Binary systems
Keyword 9: Tally systems
Keyword 10: Few words to express numbers
Keyword 11: No numerals