Re: Do people ever make variant numerical systems for non-primitive cultures?

Expand Messages
• ... Sadly, I cannot provide examples of conlangs with entirely non-place-value systems. However, Klingon uses a place-value system that s rather different from
Message 1 of 18 , Mar 7, 2013
On 4 March 2013 18:44, Matthew George <matt.msg@...> wrote:
> I was thinking about Roman numerals, and how terrible for performing
> mathematics that whole system is. Then it occurred to me that I've never
> encountered a conlang with a system anything like it. Toki Pona's is
> somewhat similar, but much simpler, and is obviously related to that lang's
> involves numerical bases. But the place-value system, complete with zero,
> is always what people seem to choose.
>
> I haven't looked at all that many systems. Do people ever make clunky,
> irrational, and old-fashioned systems like the Roman numerals? Or are the
> purposes of number systems so practical that most conlangers have no
> interest in making such a complex (no, baroque) method for doing math?
> Most other aspects of conlangs seem to be deliberately elaborated and
> intricate, reflecting how much weirdness is out there and how the
> complexity of a language isn't related to how materially-advanced its
> society is. But historically, most peoples had very basic math skills.
>
> I'd love to see counter-examples to the modern place-value system. Can you
> recommend any?

Sadly, I cannot provide examples of conlangs with entirely
non-place-value systems. However, Klingon uses a place-value system
that's rather different from what most people are familiar with; it's
got three numerals, but the digits run 1 to 3, not 0 to 2.
Counting goes as follows:
1 - 1
2 - 2
3 - 3 (three ones)
11 - 4 (one three and one ones)
12 - 5 (one three and two ones)
13 - 6 (one three and 3 ones; this is the kind of weird part)
21 - 7 (two threes and one one)
etc.

Most representations are the same as in a regular place value system
with zero, except for powers of the radix, which have one less digit,
eliminating the zero. A mechanical transformation can be done on any
regular place-value system to turn it into a zero-less system like
this.

I came up with a mixed system (intending to use it for Mev Pailom, but
that hasn't worked out very well as of yet) with basic numerals for 1,
2, and 5. Counting goes

1
2
1 and 2
2 2s
5
5 and 1
5 and 2
5 with 2 and 1
5 with 2 2s
2 5s
...
2 and 1 of 5 = 15
...
2 2's of 5 = 20

I don't have any sort of extra-linguistic numeral-only notation for it
yet. And it gets very clumsy when trying to describe numbers much
larger than 80 (2 2s of 2 2s of 5). So it needs a bit work still.

-l.
Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.