Friday, August 20, 2004

It's like Watership Down

CNN (via Reuters) has an article about a Brazilian tribe, the Piraha, whose language lacks most words for numbers.
"Their words for numbers appear limited to "one," "two" and "many," and the word for "one" sometimes means a small quantity.

"There is no word for 'number', pronouns do not encode number (e.g., 'he' and 'they' are the same word), and most of the standard quantifiers like 'more,' 'several,' 'all,' 'each' do not exist," Gordon wrote.

This reminds both my SO and I of Watership Down, wherein Lapine (the rabbit language) uses the word "hrair" to describe any number over four.

An interesting point in the article was that while adults had significant problems working with large numbers, children of the tribe did not. This seems to imply that the language itself may be inhibiting the mental abilities of its speakers to count. I wonder what limitations English has ...

Well, I've played enough at being SC for today ([Yeah, and you weren't even that good at it --ed.]).

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