University of Hong Kong > School of Humanities

Numeral Systems of the World’s Languages
- Eugene Chan

Thu 02 Mar 2017, 4:00 pm
Room 4.04, 4/F Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Numeral Systems of the World’s Languages

It is predicted that only half of the world’s 7000 or so languages will survive in the next century. As the traditional numeral systems of small languages are rapidly being replaced by those of dominant languages, it is an urgent task to document these important linguistic data before they are completely forgotten. These include a variety of different numeral systems: duodecimal systems, decimal systems, quinary systems, quaternary systems, binary systems, incomplete decimal systems, mixed systems, body-part tally systems and so on. Certain languages even lack numerals altogether.  In this talk I shall introduce my on-going project to document the numeral systems of the world’s languages in relation to 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 4,300 languages. This research has been made accessible online at:


All are welcome!

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