Episode 256: Numbers

One, two, three… Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

And yet different languages express numbers in very different ways. How are they handled in our brains? And how did –illion get to be the suffix for truly astronomical sums?

Linguist Daniel Midgley runs the numbers on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with Cole Healy


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Show notes

First major database of non-native English
http://phys.org/news/2016-07-major-database-non-native-english.html

Treebank of Learner English
http://esltreebank.org

Is “one, two, many” a myth?
https://numberwarrior.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/is-one-two-many-a-myth/

What Happens When a Language Has No Numbers?
http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2013/10/16/piraha_cognitive_anumeracy_in_a_language_without_numbers.html

The Munduruku people: Can You Count Your Chickens?
http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/can-you-count-your-chickens

Big and small numbers are processed in different sides of the brain
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160304092755.htm

Both hemispheres of the brain process numbers
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160127083844.htm

Brain processes which lead to the concept of ‘zero’ on the number line
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421133944.htm

Time and numbers mix together in the brain
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-07/afps-tan071911.php

Australian Aboriginal enumeration
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_enumeration

Joan Rivers: her best one-liners
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/comedy/11064386/Joan-Rivers-her-best-one-liners.html

Why Is It ‘Eleven, Twelve’ Instead of ‘Oneteen, Twoteen’?
http://mentalfloss.com/article/76007/why-it-eleven-twelve-instead-oneteen-twoteen

French Numbers 1-100
http://blogs.transparent.com/french/french-numbers-1-100/

kasnas-blueberry-muffinpoptarts-source-quasi-normalcy-kellhorreur-sadjadewithcake-french-sixty-seven-sixty-eight-2474484

Number Systems of the World
http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/ts/language/number.html

The Number System of Huli
http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/ts/language/number/huli.html

The Number System of Yoruba
http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/ts/language/number/yoruba.html

The Number System of Ndom
http://www.sf.airnet.ne.jp/ts/language/number/ndom.html

12 Mind Blowing Number Systems From Other Languages
http://mentalfloss.com/article/31879/12-mind-blowing-number-systems-other-languages

Vocabulary.com: You Be “-Illion”!
https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/dictionary/you-be-illion/

MILLIONS and BILLIONS…..
http://www.dozenalsociety.org.uk/numbers/millions.htm

-Illion Numbers
http://www.polytope.net/hedrondude/illion.htm

Names for Large Numbers
https://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/large.html

American / Japanese Higher Numbers
http://www.trussel.com/jnumbers.htm

Public urged to track ‘nurdles’ on Scotland’s beaches
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-36211895

Proud to Love Nerds!
http://www.candyfavorites.com/a-nerd-tastic-history

Gaelic: Counting Objects
http://www.irishgaelictranslator.com/articles/grammar/counting-objects/

How to Count to 10 in Irish
http://www.wikihow.com/Count-to-10-in-Irish

Berliner, Krapfen und Pfannkuchen
http://www.zeit.de/zeit-magazin/2014/53/pfannkuchen-berliner-sprache-deutschlandkarte

US Dialect maps:
caramelpecan


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

Image credit: http://mobileadvertisingwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Advertising-by-the-Numbers-Its-Big-Business-With-Big-Numbers-to-Match.jpg

2 Comments

  1. When you mentioned the number system from Papua New Guinea, I couldn’t help but think of how quickly we rattle off seconds and minutes (base 60) without really computing the actual “real number value” of what we’re saying. For example, if I said “two and a half hours” I’m not really thinking about 9000 seconds. This is strange, but I think that maybe the same is true not just for dozens (I would never calculate 4 dozen if I bought that many eggs, I just simply think “ah, 4 dozen eggs”) or for hours (I never think, “ah, 9000 seconds” only about 2,5 hours) but also for sets of numbers (the base). Adding 50 + 20 is easy because you just adding 5 and 2 sets of 10, but if the base system was 12 the 50 + 20 would become more a little complicated like 24 + 57 is. It seems so normal to think of a base ten system as more fundamental, basic, and simple, but that’s just because we’re not actually doing the math or understanding them as numbers per se, but rather as groups of numbers (4 minutes + 7,5 minutes is easy because we don’t think about it in terms of seconds). Just a little thought I had. P.s. When I was very young kid I remember counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 200, 300… ect.” I don’t know how to work that into all of this, but maybe someone smarter than me can make the connection. Great show 🙂

    • 50 in a base 12 system would be 60 in a base 10 system, not 57.

      And 60 is a pretty cool number, divisable by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10!

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