Date: Dec 16, 1996 6:45 PM
Author: Michael Deakin
Subject: Re: Roman arithmetic


A brief note on this remark:

> Particularly interesting about them is that numbers seem to have
> been associated with what they counted or measured. Thus in the earliest
> versions of the abacus one could add (using the right tokens) two goats to
> three goats to get five goats, but not two goats to five bushels of wheat.
> The pure abstraction of number seems to have been a later development,
> perhaps around the end of the third millennium BC
>
>

A number of Asian languages require "units" or "measures" to be
applied to the objects being counted. The most commonly quoted
example is Chinese, but the feature also exists in Indonesian and
elsewhere.

E.g. in Indonesian to say "three people" we can't have "tiga orang",
as a literal translation might go; correct is "tiga orang orang", the
1st "orang" being the unit "people", the second the noun "people".

Mike Deakin