Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

From unit-and-ten to ten-before-unit order in the history of English numerals

  • Thomas Berg (a1) and Marion Neubauer (a1)
Abstract

In the course of its history, English underwent a significant structural change in its numeral system. The number words from 21 to 99 switched from the unit-and-ten to the ten-before-unit pattern. This change is traced on the basis of more than 800 number words. It is argued that this change, which took seven centuries to complete and in which the Old English pattern was highly persistent, can be broken down into two parts—the reordering of the units and tens and the loss of the conjoining element. Although the two steps logically belong to the same overall change, they display a remarkably disparate behavior. Whereas the reordering process affected the least frequent number words first, the deletion process affected the most frequent words first. This disparity lends support to the hypothesis that the involvement or otherwise of low-level aspects of speech determines the role of frequency in language change (Phillips, 2006). Finally, the order change is likely to be a contact-induced phenomenon and may have been facilitated by a reduction in mental cost.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Behaghel, Otto. (1909). Beziehungen zwischen Umfang und Reihenfolge von Satzgliedern. Indogermanische Forschungen 25:110142.
Blanken, Gerhard, Dorn, M., & Sinn, H. (1997). Inversion errors in Arabic number reading: Is there a nonsemantic route? Brain and Cognition 34:404423.
Bosworth, Joseph, & Toller, Northcote T. (1898). An Anglo-Saxon dictionary. London: Oxford University Press.
Braune, Wilhelm. (1967). Althochdeutsche Grammatik. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Bremmer, Rolf H. (2009). An introduction to Old Frisian. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Brunner, Karl. (1953). Abriss der altenglischen (angelsächsischen) Grammatik von Eduard Sievers. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Brunner, Karl. (1962). Die englische Sprache. Band II. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Brunner, Karl. (1967). Abriss der mittelenglischen Grammatik. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Brysbaert, Marc, Fias, Wim, & Noël, Marie-Pascale. (1998). The Whorfian hypothesis and numerical cognition: Is ‘twenty-four’ processed in the same way as ‘four-and-twenty’? Cognition 66:5177.
Burnley, David. (1992). Lexis and semantics. In Blake, N. (ed.), The Cambridge history of the English language. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 409499.
Bybee, Joan. (2001). Phonology and language use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Campbell, Alistair. (1959). Old English grammar. Oxford: Clarendon.
Christiansen, Morten H., & Devlin, Joseph T. (1997). Recursive inconsistencies are hard to learn: A connectionist perspective on universal word order correlations. In Shafto, M. G. (ed.), Proceedings of the 19th annual conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 113118.
Cooper, William E., & Ross, John Robert. (1975). World order. In Grossman, R. E., James San, L., & Vance, T. J. (eds.), Papers from the parasession on functionalism. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. 63111.
Culbertson, Jennifer, Smolensky, Paul, & Legendre, Géraldine. (2012). Learning biases predict a word order universal. Cognition 122:306329.
Dehaene, Stanislas, & Mehler, Jacques. (1992). Cross-linguistic regularities in the frequency of number words. Cognition 43:129.
Fischer, Olga. (2000). Grammaticalization: Unidirectional, non-reversible? In Fischer, O., Rosenbach, A., & Stein, D. (eds.), Pathways of change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 149169.
Gil, David. (2001). Quantifiers. In Haspelmath, M., König, E., Österreicher, W., & Raible, W. (eds.), Language typology and language universals. Vol. 2. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 12751294.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (1966). Language universals. The Hague: Mouton.
Greenberg, Joseph H.. (1978). Generalizations about number systems. In Greenberg, J. H., Ferguson, C. A., & Moravcsik, E. A. (eds.), Universals of human language. Vol. 3: Word structure. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 249295.
Haugen, Odd Einar. (2013). Norröne Grammatik im Überblick. Hamburg: Buske.
Hawkins, John A. (1994). A performance theory of order and constituency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hooper, Joan B. (1976). Word frequency in lexical diffusion as the source of morphophonological change. In Christie, W. M. Jr. (ed.), Current progress in historical linguistics. Amsterdam: North Holland. 95105.
Kibler, William W. (1984). An introduction to Old French. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.
Mayerthaler, Willi. (1981). Morphologische Natürlichkeit. Wiesbaden: Athenaion.
MacKay, Donald G. (1970). Spoonerisms: The structure of errors in the serial order of speech. Neuropsychologia 8:323350.
Means, Laurel. (1992). “Ffor as moche as yche man may not haue þe astrolabe”: Popular Middle English variations on the computus. Speculum 67:595623.
Menninger, Karl. (1958). Zahlwort und Ziffer. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Zahl. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht.
Mustanoja, Tauno F. (1960). A Middle English syntax. Part I: Parts of speech. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique.
Nohara, Yasuhiro. (1995). The numerals in Chaucer [in Japanese]. English Review 10:4165.
Noreen, Adolf. (1903). Altisländische und altnordische Grammatik: Unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. Halle: Niemeyer.
Öfverberg, William. (1924). The inflections of the East Midland dialects in early Middle English. Lund: Håkan Ohlsson.
Pagel, Mark, Atkinson, Quentin D., & Meade, Andrew. (2007). Frequency of word-use predicts rates of lexical evolution throughout Indo-European history. Nature 449:717721.
Phillips, Betty S. (1984). Word frequency and the actuation of sound change. Language 60:320342.
Phillips, Betty S.. (2006). Word frequency and lexical diffusion. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Poutsma, H. (1916). A grammar of late Modern English. Part II: The parts of speech. Groningen: P. Noordhoff.
Quak, A., & van der Horst, J. M. (2002). Inleiding Oudnederlands. Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven.
Quirk, Randolph, & Wrenn, C. L. (1957). An Old English grammar. London: Methuen.
Rohdenburg, Günter. (1996). Cognitive complexity and increased grammatical explicitness in English. Cognitive Linguistics 7:149182.
Rosenfeld, Hans-Friedrich. (1956/57). Die germanischen Zahlwörter von 70–90 und die Entwicklung des Aufbaus der germanischen Zahlwörter. Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Ernst Moritz Arndt-Universität Greifswald, Gesellschafts- und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe No. 3, 6.
Seiler, Hansjakob. (1990). A dimensional view on numeral systems. In Croft, W., Denning, K., & Kemmer, S. (eds.), Studies in typology and diachrony. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 187208.
Stampe, David. (1976). Cardinal number systems. In Mufwene, S. S., Walker, C. A., & Steever, S. B. (eds.), Papers from the annual regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society 12:594609.
Tietjens, Eugenie. (1922). Englische Zahlwörter des 15./16. Jahrhunderts. Langensalza: Julius Betz.
Tottie, Gunnel. (1991). Lexical diffusion in syntactic change: Frequency as a determinant of linguistic conservatism in the development of negation in English. In Kastovsky, D. (ed.), Historical English syntax. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 439467.
van Kerckvoorde, Colette M. (1993). An introduction to Middle Dutch. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
von Mengden, Ferdinand. (2010). Cardinal numerals. Old English from a cross-linguistic perspective. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
Wülfing, J. Ernst. (1894). Die Syntax in den Werken Alfreds des Großen. Bonn: P. Hanstein.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed