Les principes de construction du nombre dans les langues tibéto-birmanes

Abstract : English summary

The vast majority of the 300 or so modern Tibeto-Burman languages have decimal numeral systems in accordance with most of the modern world, and more specifically in accordance with their two large influential neighbours, Chinese and the Indo-Aryan languages of India. Some of them reveal, after purposeful inquiry, other mathematical principles in their construction of numbers and number names. If some of these formations are random, as when rebuilding a half-forgotten system, others are systematic and reveal an earlier usage where groupings of four, five or twelve were more common. In one language, dzongkha, preserved by its geographical and political isolation, we have found a full-fledged vigesimal system, complete to the fourth power of the base (a hundred and sixty thousand). Principles of number building which have become rare in other parts of the world, as fractions inside a number and overcounting, are also attested widely in Tibeto-Burman. More field research is urgently needed to collect these fast disappearing systems, which foreign educators and local speakers both unfortunately regard as a hindrance to socio-economic development.
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Martine Mazaudon. Les principes de construction du nombre dans les langues tibéto-birmanes. Mémoires de la Société de Linguistique de Paris, Paris: Klincksieck, 2002, nouvelle série tome 12, pp.91-119. ⟨halshs-00166891⟩

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