In this post I am only considering numbers when they are used without any reference to an object. In a next post I shall deal with numbers when they are associated with particular objects, animals, humans, etc.
1°) The numeral system is a simple decimal system
The main units are 10 and multiples of 10, 100 and multiples of 100, 1000 and multiples of 1000.
2°) numbers from 1 to 10 are unique forms
|1||ako or kone|
|2||anye or anyi|
3°) Numbers from 11 to 19 are compound words, of the form : ‘ten + unit’.
Units 2, 4, 5 appearing in compound forms are shortened; unique and compound forms for 1 are different; units 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 remain unchanged. The correspondence is given below for the main dialect :
|Appearing in unique form||Appearing in compound form|
|1||ako||-kun or -he|
A particle, LE (or HELA), which can be roughly translated as ‘and’, is inserted between ‘ten’ and the unit. The difference between LE and HELA corresponds to 2 ways of counting, which are equivalent :
- ‘ten + HELA + unit (as appearing in unique form)’
- ‘ten + LE + unit (as appearing in compound form)’
Thus 11 is ‘alyan hela ako’ or ‘alyan-le-kung’. Both literally mean "ten and one" and can be used indiscriminately.
|10 + HELA + unit||10 + LE + unit|
|11||alyan hela ako||alyan le-kun|
|12||alyan hela anye||alyan le-nye/nyi|
|13||alyan hela hinge||alyan le-hin|
|14||alyan hela piilye||alyan le-phe/pi|
|15||alyan hela yango||alyan le-ngo|
|16||alyan hela khiiye||alyan le-khii/khe|
|17||alyan hela kanu||alyan le-kanu|
|18||alyan hela pinye/pinyi||alyan le-pinye/nyi|
|19||alyan hela kowa||alyan le-kowa|
4°) Multiples of ten are compound forms. Compoundings are made either of the form :
- ‘number of tens + KHAN’ : for 20, 30, 70, 80, 90.
- ‘ten + number of tens’ : for 40, 50, 60
* Note that the prefixes used for 20 and 30 are respectively LYI- and HI-, different from the shortened forms -NYI- and –HING used as suffixes.
* Note also the difference between :
14 (alyan-hela-piilye) and 40 (alyan-piilye)
15 (alyan-hela-yango) and 50 (alyan-yango)
16 (alyan-hela-khiiye) and 60 (alyan-khiiye)
It seems confusing at first sight, but after all no more than English 'fourteen' and 'fourty, 'fifteen' and 'fifty', 'sixteen' and 'sixty'....
5°) multiples of hundred take the form ‘hundred + numeral’, i.e. LANG- + numeral except for 200 and 300 where the compound form of the numeral is prefixed by LA- only. Note also that LANG becomes LAM before the consonant p)
6°) Multiples of thousand take the form 'thousand (LALYAN) + numeral' :
lalyan anye = 2000
lalyan ahin = 3000
However in recent years a new compound form including the Hindi word for 'thousand' (JAR) tends to replace it. It takes the form 'thousand (JAR) + numeral (contracted)'
7°) Expressing any number above 10 is made by combining thousands, hundreds, tens and units and separating each category by the particle ‘LA’ (or HELA/LE between tens and units)
Jarnyi la lahin la alyan hela ako : 2311