**Topic:**Notes on Pirah?

### Note #3

Assume that in a hypothetical language

*Pop*there is a three word basic vocabulary for three sizes, magnitudes, greatnesses or points of a very generic scale:

Wow... Large (L)Okay... Medium (m)Hun... Small (s)

Is it possible to derive a numeric system from such small vocabulary? The answer is yeas, it could be noted as a base 3 system, through the following convention:

(L)->2

(m)->1

(s)->0

Accordingly, the

*numbers*or

*numerals*of the

*Pop*linguistic community would look like the examples below:

Decimal to base 3 system:

4... 11

5... 12

6... 20

7... 21

8... 22

9... 100

50... 1212

51... 1220

100... 10201

987... 1100120

Etc.

Now assume that these

*figures*are `read' with the basic morphemes

*wow, okay*and

*hun*, provided that by some phonological factors

*okay+wow*is uttered

*okwow*,

*okay+hun*is

*okun*and

*wow+okay*is

*wakay*, and any sequence of

*ww*becomes

*hw*. Then, one gets the following numerals:

4... okayokay

5... okwow

6... wowhun

7... wakay

8... wohwow

9... okunhun

50... okwowokwow

51... okwohwowhun

100... okunwowhunokay

987... okayokunhunokwowhun

Etc.

So, mathematically speaking, there is no sound reason to conclude that, by having only a vocabulary for three basic greatnesses, the users of a language like

*Pop*lack numbers or the concept of counting. The

*Pop*speaking Pople would do fine with such system.

However, the users of the aforementioned base 3 system would find any decimal system as unusual, useless and unintelligible to them as persons from a

*decimal culture*would find the system of the

*Pop*speaking people too foreign and difficult.

Posted by Tony Marmo
at 00:01 GMT

Updated: Monday, 22 November 2004 08:41 GMT