The Numbers Game, Part 2
ost languages name their numbers using a base-10 system — that is, the pattern repeats every ten numbers: twenty-five, thirty-five, forty-five, etc. That said, it's not uncommon for languages to use different bases or counting methods. In French, the numbers 60 through 99 follow a base-20 pattern. So 70 is literally said as “sixty-ten” soixante-dix while 71 is “sixty-and-eleven” soixante et onze Likewise, the French word for 80 is “four twenties” (quatre-vingt), so the number 98 is “four twenties eighteen” (quatre-vingt dix-huit). French comes from Latin, but Latin used a purely base-10 system like English does, and in fact French-speaking Belgians and Swiss don’t use this French system, and instead have their own words for “70” and “90”. But in France, they count by twenties, just as in the pre-Roman languages of the region. Those languages were all from the Celtic group, which used the “vigesimal” (20-based) system, instead of the decimal (10-based) one. Of Celtic languages still around today, Breton (spoken in the northeastern French region of Brittany) and Manx (spoken on the British Isle of Man) still count by 20s, while Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are sometimes vigesimal, and Irish is pretty much just decimal. An example of a language with a smaller base than 10 is Cambodian, which counts with a base of 5. The word for “one” is “mooy” មួយ and the word for “five” is “prahm” ប្រា so “six” is “prahm-mooy”, meaning “five-one” ប្រាំមួយ And for an even more exotic method, we can look to the ancient Babylonians, who used a base-60 counting system. A single “digit” was made up of marks for “one” and “ten”, combined in patterns together to represent any number from 1 to 59. And, in a two-digit number, the first digit showed the number of 60s, while in a three-digit number, the first digit would be units of 3,600 (60 x 60). So since 10 was written as the three-digit number ‹ ‹ ‹ would represent “36,610” (ten 3,600s, plus ten 60s, plus ten).
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The Numbers Game, Part 2
ost languages name their numbers using a base-10 system — that is, the pattern repeats every ten numbers: twenty-five, thirty-five, forty-five, etc. That said, it's not uncommon for languages to use different bases or counting methods. In French, the numbers 60 through 99 follow a base-20 pattern. So 70 is literally said as “sixty-ten” soixante-dix while 71 is “sixty-and-eleven” soixante et onze Likewise, the French word for 80 is “four twenties” (quatre-vingt), so the number 98 is “four twenties eighteen” (quatre- vingt dix-huit). French comes from Latin, but Latin used a purely base-10 system like English does, and in fact French-speaking Belgians and Swiss don’t use this French system, and instead have their own words for “70” and “90”. But in France, they count by twenties, just as in the pre-Roman languages of the region. Those languages were all from the Celtic group, which used the “vigesimal” (20-based) system, instead of the decimal (10-based) one. Of Celtic languages still around today, Breton (spoken in the northeastern French region of Brittany) and Manx (spoken on the British Isle of Man) still count by 20s, while Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are sometimes vigesimal, and Irish is pretty much just decimal. An example of a language with a smaller base than 10 is Cambodian, which counts with a base of 5. The word for “one” is “mooy” មួយ and the word for “five” is “prahm” ប្រា so “six” is “prahm-mooy”, meaning “five- one” ប្រាំមួយ And for an even more exotic method, we can look to the ancient Babylonians, who used a base-60 counting system. A single “digit” was made up of marks for “one” and “ten”, combined in patterns together to represent any number from 1 to 59. And, in a two-digit number, the first digit showed the number of 60s, while in a three-digit number, the first digit would be units of 3,600 (60 x 60). So since 10 was written as the three-digit number ‹ ‹ ‹ would represent “36,610” (ten 3,600s, plus ten 60s, plus ten).
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