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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LavethWolf

Languages without a base 10 number system?

I would like to know if there are still languages out there that primarily use a non base 10 number system, or a system that is base 10, but contains a number of digits that don't match up to 10 ( such as Roman Numerals ). Or if anyone can list a language that perhaps once used a non base 10 number system in the past.

( obligatory drawing to go with my post )

August 20, 2017

7 Comments

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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Chilotin

English number system is not exactly base 10: "eleven", "twelve", "(13-19)teen". The same for Romance languages whith things like "once" (11); French adds a bonus with its quatre-vingt (4-20=80) and quatre-vingt-dix (4-20-10 = 90). This mixed system is different to fully base 10 number systems, such as in Andean languages: 11 = 10-1, 12 = 10-2, etc

I've read Mayan and other Mesoamerican languages have base 20 systems. There are many languages with base 2 and base 5 number systems, an example is Kawésqar, where 1 is takso, 2 is woks and 3 is wokstow (2-other).

August 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/E.T.Gregor

Under "By type of notation", there are quite a few languages named in this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_numeral_systems
Gumulgal (an Australian language not on the above list) has a base two counting system. And then there's the famous example of Pirahã, which doesn't really count at all.

August 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slogger

And there are the tree frogs in Terry Pratchett's "Bromeliad" trilogy (Diggers, Truckers, Wings), who tried really hard but could never count past the number one.

August 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/E.T.Gregor

And don't forget the Troll's counting system: One, two, three, many... many-one, many-two etc.

August 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slogger

Ah, that book of his I haven't read, although my wife says that she has. You wouldn't happen to remember the title, would you? I'd love to read it.

August 24, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

Georgian is fairly vigesimal. My grammar sources indicate that any number above 4 in Guaraní may originate only after European contact.

August 20, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slogger

Like Chilotin, I thought the Maya used a base-20 numbering system, but acc. to this article they used base 90.

Computer programmers often count in hexadecimal (base 16) for convenience, rather than use base 2. For a white my wife liked to compute her age in base 16, so that she wouldn't have reached 29 yet, but she's had to up the base w/in the last decade.

August 20, 2017
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