Abstract

Polynesian and Micronesian languages inherited a decimal number system from Proto-Oceanic, and individually extended it on one or more dimensions: in length by adding terms for larger numbers, in breadth by specifying numeral classifiers for certain objects (prevailing in Micronesia), and in factor by introducing a larger counting unit (prevailing in Polynesia). Specific counting systems are characterized by a combination of these features: They are based on larger counting units (multiplication function) and apply to certain objects only (object specificity). This paper surveys the distribution of each extension type in Polynesian and Micronesian number systems, characterizes the features that they share, and analyzes the constitutive role that numeral classifiers play for specific counting systems. It is concluded that in most of these languages, number systems are composed according to similar principles, while the divergence in classifiers, objects of reference, and factors chosen results from cultural adaptations, some of which might have been responses to socioeconomic requirements and served purposes of cognitive facilitation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9421
Print ISSN
0029-8115
Pages
pp. 380-403
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-24
Open Access
No
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