Linguistics and Numbers

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Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on July 29th, 2016, 1:09 am 

I am curious if anyone knows of a system of numbers used where different types of number systems are used for different situations.

The only example of this I know is in the Philippines where it is common practice to use three different number systems, by which I mean they use Spanish, Tagalog/dialect and English. When talking about the time Spanish is primarily used, yet I think I am correct in saying that Taglish mat obviously tend towards some English use when telling the time. Having spoken to a few people they all agree it sounds ridiculous to use their "native" tongue to say the time. Historically it makes perfect sense how Spanish is used in the language, but my interest is in the conceptual structuring this may achieve.

I imagine something similar would be employed in India given the large amount of languages.

What really intrigues me is the specific uses of each numbering system and how this could affect cognition and conceptual perspectives of the world.

Also if there are any polygots out there have you experienced something that may relate to this topic?

Thank you all for existing, if you exist :)
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby Braininvat on July 29th, 2016, 9:28 am 

Didn't the Brits use base 12 for money and commodities while using base 10 for math? Or is that too obvious?
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby vivian maxine on July 29th, 2016, 10:38 am 

I could not remember what the base was but you are right, Biv.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby Braininvat on July 29th, 2016, 12:28 pm 

12 is a number that divides easily, in multiple ways, so it's a natural base for commodities or anything that needs to be divvied up.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on July 30th, 2016, 1:29 am 

Intetesting but not exactly what I was asking.

For example if I used one, two, three ... to refer to objects, uno, dos, tres... to refer to time and various other forms specific to certain situations. In the Philippines people don't use Tagalog to tell the time they use Spanish numbers. To them to say Isa, dalawo, tatlo (one, two, three) to tell the time sounds ridiculous. Because they have three languages in use there are more subtle distinctions in other areas.

I am curious if there is a culture out there that uses some numbers for objects and other numbers for abstract entities (ie. math, time, money, measurements).
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby vivian maxine on July 30th, 2016, 9:39 am 

BadgerJelly » July 30th, 2016, 12:29 am wrote:Intetesting but not exactly what I was asking.

For example if I used one, two, three ... to refer to objects, uno, dos, tres... to refer to time and various other forms specific to certain situations. In the Philippines people don't use Tagalog to tell the time they use Spanish numbers. To them to say Isa, dalawo, tatlo (one, two, three) to tell the time sounds ridiculous. Because they have three languages in use there are more subtle distinctions in other areas.

I am curious if there is a culture out there that uses some numbers for objects and other numbers for abstract entities (ie. math, time, money, measurements).


Number systems? Like base ten for everyday objects, base 18 for money, base two in computer science? Is that what you mean?
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on July 30th, 2016, 10:44 am 

Sorry, to say number systems was VERY misleading. As I said above in the Philippines they have three languages in use
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby vivian maxine on July 30th, 2016, 10:54 am 

Aha! Key word: "linguistics". Right? Same base?

Just want to understand what you are asking. Thanks.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby Braininvat on July 30th, 2016, 2:09 pm 

BadgerJelly » July 29th, 2016, 10:29 pm wrote:
I am curious if there is a culture out there that uses some numbers for objects and other numbers for abstract entities (ie. math, time, money, measurements).


We use Arabic numbers for objects and measures, and Roman numbers for legal document articles, Constitutional sections, movie sequels, Popes, Kings, etc. I.e. more abstract entities.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby Athena on July 31st, 2016, 12:46 am 

I don't know if this applies to what you are talking about, but you explanation of the question made me think of Mahjong.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby Athena on July 31st, 2016, 12:56 am 

Braininvat » July 30th, 2016, 12:09 pm wrote:
BadgerJelly » July 29th, 2016, 10:29 pm wrote:
I am curious if there is a culture out there that uses some numbers for objects and other numbers for abstract entities (ie. math, time, money, measurements).


We use Arabic numbers for objects and measures, and Roman numbers for legal document articles, Constitutional sections, movie sequels, Popes, Kings, etc. I.e. more abstract entities.


I am impressed. That is a perfect example and it didn't even flicker in my head.

Now I have to add to that the US uses the Imperial system, not the metric system for measuring, and the way we figure time is base 12/60 not base 10 which doesn't seem so different to me as using a completely different language. But could it be we are more capable of being bi numerical than being bi lingual?
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on July 31st, 2016, 3:06 am 

Brain -

They are instances of written language not spoken. I don't say King Henry the uno.

In English we have adopted a great deal from other languages and can say both little and small, one being of Germanic origin and the other from romantic languages.

What I find interesting, and maybe quite unique, in the Philippines is if I ask the time:

"Ano horas na?", literally "What time?", the reply is in Spanish, I would hear something like "Dos hora." Whilst if I was asking someone how many objects there were on the table the reply would be "Tatlo.", which literally means "Three". If I asked about the cost of something, "Magkano?", the reply is usually in Spanish, sometimes inTagalog and possibly in English depending on how much Taglish is being used (Taglish being like Spanglish).

In the Philippines there are two official languages, Tagalog and English. There are various other dialects too, the other most common ones being Cebuano and Visayan which tend more towards Spanish due to historical influence.

If you asked someone in Tagalog to count to ten they would use Tagalog, if you asked the time they use Spanish, and in other situations use is interchangable.

You could argue that in the US two languages are used too when counting money and in all English speaking regions when using time. Meaning we say "century" for one hundred years, and millenium for one thousands years. The US all says 10 cents, which literally means 10 100ths. This is unlike the Philippines where they use all numbers of three languages.

To understand this imagine, if you can, always telling the time using Spanish. So if you asked the time you would hear "Dos O'clock". Then imagine someone suggesting you say "Two O'clock". What I am saying is not really appeciated by someone who only knows one native/natural way of counting. In the Philippines people grow up using both Spanish and Tagalog/Cebuano/Visayan/ etc ... languages as ONE language. Much like English has adopted Latin, Greek and French terms in the Philippines they have adopted the numbers of different languages and these numbers have semi-specific applications.

Just to try and be clearer still. It is not that they learn Spanish. They learn their native tongue which just so happens to have adopted Spanish numbers.

Now think about this and the English terms "little" and "small". For me "little" is used differently than "small". For instance I am more likely to say "smaller" than "littler", I say "a small amount", or "a little". Grammatically these words, althiugh synomynous, are used in different grammatical structures. Also I would say the "little" is more of a childlike expression where "small" is more common in the speech of adults.

I don't know nearly enough about Tagalog to understand how numbers may possess some of these features. Are Spanish numbers viewed as more progressive? More authoritarian? Do Philippine children mistakenly say the time in Tagalog or have a preference to count in one language over the other?

Once these questions are addressed I hope then to look at how switching the application of these numbers effects mathematical abilities. I got to thinking about this in reference to Husserl saying that the number 1 is always the same number 1 and that across all languages the concept is identical. I personally think this is true in one sense yet untrue in a su tler sense.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby Athena on July 31st, 2016, 11:10 am 

Good morning, I woke with this thread on my mind.

I don't know as much about languages as Badgerjelly, but what he said is kind of like what I was thinking. It is fun to puzzle through such things.

This morning I thought to google the question and there is a legal explanation for these language differences, and I get the impression some strongly objected to having a foreigner's language imposed on them, and would guess the indigenous people were not that interested in time. Kind of like native Americans were not clock watchers. Structured time can seem unnatural and enslaving. Paying attention to time is what those people do not what we do, so the language for time is their language. We use it when we have to interact with their world.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_l ... hilippines

Spanish was the official language of the Philippines from the beginning of Spanish rule in the late 16th century, through the conclusion of the Spanish–American War in 1898. It remained, along with English, as co-official language until 1987. Interestingly, it was removed in 1973 by a constitutional change. After a few months it was re-designated an official language by presidential decree and remained official until 1987, when the present Constitution removed its official status, designating it instead as an optional language.[1][2]
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby dandelion on July 31st, 2016, 11:12 pm 

I think Yan of the Brittonic Yan tan tethera, etc., used for counting sheep and stitches is based on some similar ancestor also related to some proto-Indo-European as One, but although this book is quite old it can be quite pretty interesting. It also describes Haruai numerical systems, which might be closer to the ideas wanted as well as other interesting ideas.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KFB ... ra&f=false
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_tan_tethera
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haruai_language
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on August 1st, 2016, 4:17 am 

Here is a present day example in the English language.

Universe instead of monoverse. Having looked this up "monoverse" is a term used in metaphysics.

Something more appropriate would be to say twocycle instead of bicycle. Or should I say twicecycle? If I say university can I say monoversity or oneversity or primeversity or oncesity?

My point being here is that we have crossovers in use of numbers. One, once and singular. There is quantity, separation and temporal uses. It is one O'clock twice in a singular day or in multiple days.

In math we can say to the fourth power or the power of four. I table has four legs and we can possibly refer to its fourth leg and that this would be understood due to where I am sat in reference to the table and our tendency towards clockwise motion. You could probably guess that the fourth leg would be on my left rather than my right quite easily (maybe not!?).

I guess what intrigues me is the difference between a polygots concept and the native filipino concept of numbers. The polygot has multiple languages to count in spread over different languages, where the filipino has at least two languages to count in contained within one language (they don't know Spanish is Spanish to begin. They simply use Spanish numbers unconscious of it originating from another langauge).

How much does our unconscious engagement with numbers effect our perspective? If I start saying twocycle instead of bicycle once I have become accustomed to saying twocycle naturally have I changed what bicycle means? This is a very subtle thing I am talking about here. I would not imagine that I would be concscious of any difference at all other than in the process of adjusting my language to replace the utterance and thought "bicycle" with "twocycle", and this would take considerable time because people would question my use repeatedly and would, themselves, have to engage in the change for me to have a natural inclination to say "twocycle" instead of "bicycle".

Now to move a step towards where I am going with this imagine a language that has several languages for numbers within one language. Much like how Latin is brought into use in court.

For example let us say that when I talk about the number of things related to an object I use a different language. Kne person has dos arms and dos legs, but I never say one person has two arms and two legs. We could imagine a whole world of different languages to apply to different concepts and objects.

Once we have a language for time and then apply these terms to mathematics what does thus do to how we use mathematics? What would I make of adding "dos" to "one" in the above example? Lingually it would mean that one object possesses two of something, yet mathematically it means something different and we engage naturally in complex mathematical systems (I think this is basically the same as matrices?).
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby dandelion on August 3rd, 2016, 7:50 pm 

I think I made a mistake linking, I'd meant to link to the chapter about Haruai, so whether or not it is relevant to the thread, and it is not about any special function so much, this is a quick summary more about differences like scale, which from readings like this, seems similar to much numeral development-
"Bernard Comrie’s ‘Haruai numerals and their implications for the history and typology of number systems’ demonstrates the use in Haruai of three numeral systems, one indigenous, one apparently borrowed from Kobon (a neighboring New Guinea lg.), from which ‘substantial vocabulary’ is borrowed (92 n.2) and one borrowed from Tok Pisin. The indigenous system has two morphemes, pay ‘1’, and mos ‘2’, and appears to reach its limit at mosmos ‘4’ (82). The second is a body-part-word based system, in widespread use in New Guinea (ibid), in which counting is accomplished by saying the words for, or indicating, in order, the fingers (starting with the little finger) of the left hand, the wrist, forearm, elbow, biceps, shoulder, etc. (82, 83). For numbers higher than ‘12’, the English (Tok Pisin) system is used (85, f). C notes that the systems were adopted as the culture developed. The bimorphemic system was efficient for a low number of items, and as trading relations developed, the need for a more efficient counting system was satisfied by the body-part system, and then by the Tok Pisin system. C states in conclusion that numerals are highly culture-bound, tied to education and trading (87)."

But, although this isn't so much about words from different languages used together, if interested in some possible linguistic correlations with conceptions of time particularly, this more recent paper is interesting. Included is some discussion of Spanish and some austronesian, as well as some of the work by Sinha, some of whose work I've linked to in other threads before.

http://uni-bielefeld.de/(de)/ZIF/FG/2011Cognition/Publications/140331-Elsevier-Bender-Beller.pdf

"When speaking and reasoning about time, people around the world tend to do so with vocabulary and concepts borrowed from the domain of space. This raises the question of whether the cross-linguistic variability found for spatial representations, and the principles on which these are based, may also carry over to the domain of time. Real progress in addressing this question presupposes a taxonomy for the possible conceptualizations in one domain and its consistent and comprehensive mapping onto the other—a challenge that has been taken up only recently and is far from reaching consensus. This article aims at systematizing the theoretical and empirical advances in this field, with a focus on accounts that deal with frames of reference (FoRs). It reviews eight such accounts by identifying their conceptual ingredients and principles for space–time mapping, and it explores the potential for their integration. To evaluate their feasibility, data from some thirty empirical studies, conducted with speakers of sixteen different languages, are then scrutinized. This includes a critical assessment of the methods employed, a summary of the findings for each language group, and a (re-)analysis of the data in view of the theoretical questions. The discussion relates these findings to research on the mental time line, and explores the psychological reality of temporal FoRs, the degree of cross-domain consistency in FoR adoption, the role of deixis, and the sources and extent of space–time mapping more generally."

Just pretty superficially, differing expressions within English can be strange as you said, including cyclical counting of hours in the day, twice, and other cyclical expression of the same. "Midnight", the middle of the night as also being 12am, another day. Or 12pm, post meridian, could translate as after itself, or something like that.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby dandelion on August 3rd, 2016, 11:19 pm 

Should have written, "Post Meridiem".
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby neuro on August 4th, 2016, 10:17 am 

My impression is that the particular case Badger is presenting, as well as dandelion's example, should not be seen as structured criteria in using different numbering codes, but rather as historical developments (more or less haphazard).

In Italian (but in English as well) we have a number of words that use numerical prefixes that come either from Latin (uni, bi, tri, quadri, curiously enough they tend to stop here though you may find quinqui) or from Greek (mono, di, tri/tris, tetra, penta, esa, epta...). However, it does not seem to me there is any conceptual or structural reasons why in some cases the Latin (biceps, bicycle, biennium, quadrangular) and in others the Greek (divalent, tetrapod, hexagon) root has rooted in the language.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on August 5th, 2016, 5:01 am 

dandelion -

I have mentioned that before in reference to Asian tendancy to say "up" for future and "down" for past where we say forwards or backwards in time.

My point here is primarily about what I found in the Philippines. They have three languages in use parallel to each other and inclusive of each other (depending on general education in regard to English). They all possess, or rather the vast majority, use of Spanish and "native" numbers from one upwards without ceiling, unlike our limited application with mere prefixes such as mentioned with "uni-" or "mono-".

Time time is told in Spanish NEVER "native" langauge (understand that the Spanish numbers used are actually native not acquired after learning "another" language first). Maybe people don't quite grasp what I am saying because they have never come across anything like this before?

The general distinctions being Spanish numbers are used for time ONLY, and money often and rarely for objects if at all. Whereas "native" numbers are used mostly for objects, on occasion (in my experience) for money and NEVER for time.

What interests me within this is if a Filipino does physics and uses "native" numbers or Spanish numbers is there a difference in cognitive application due to the everyday differences of use? I am talking about something very subtle here and something which I would certainly expect to make a cognitive difference to a childs exposure to language, although I doubt a pre-speech toddler has much interest in nature sciences! :P
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby neuro on August 5th, 2016, 7:00 am 

Badger, possibly the problem is that conceptually time has nothing to do with mathematics (geometrical relations, logical relations, series, numbers), but rather with a spatial representation of time as a line and day time as a circle...
You might not be aware that old people like me took some time to get acquainted to digital clocks and watches, because a simple glimpse to an analogical clock would have given us a much more meaningful perception of "what time is it".
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby vivian maxine on August 5th, 2016, 7:45 am 

neuro » August 5th, 2016, 6:00 am wrote:Badger, possibly the problem is that conceptually time has nothing to do with mathematics (geometrical relations, logical relations, series, numbers), but rather with a spatial representation of time as a line and day time as a circle...
You might not be aware that old people like me took some time to get acquainted to digital clocks and watches, because a simple glimpse to an analogical clock would have given us a much more meaningful perception of "what time is it".


And still does for some of us. :-)
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby bangstrom on August 5th, 2016, 3:51 pm 

If you see someone check the time on an analog watch and ask them, "What time is it?" they usually don't know and have to check their watch again. People usually don't look at a clock to see what time it is. They want to know how much time they have left and analog clocks are best for this. Analog clocks tell you how much time you have left without doing the math.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby vivian maxine on August 5th, 2016, 4:40 pm 

bangstrom » August 5th, 2016, 2:51 pm wrote:If you see someone check the time on an analog watch and ask them, "What time is it?" they usually don't know and have to check their watch again. People usually don't look at a clock to see what time it is. They want to know how much time they have left and analog clocks are best for this. Analog clocks tell you how much time you have left without doing the math.


I had not thought of that - analog teling how much time you have left - but it's true. So is the bit about people looking at their watches and then not knowing what they saw. But, isn't that also true of digital?
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on August 6th, 2016, 11:56 am 

Regardless of my intent for looking into this can anyone actual find a language that has something comparable to Filipino language? Obviously places like India seem like obvious choices.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby dandelion on August 7th, 2016, 12:11 am 

I can't think of anything that fits this so well at the moment, but that doesn't say much. I keep thinking of languages without number or with limits around five, which could rule out time keeping based on 12 hour clocks etc., but then there are some suggestions that differences can come and go, larger numbers gained and lost, for example.

In Tagalog, is Spanish used for say, "half past" or "quarter to"? Spanish doesn't have a translation for "O' clock" as typically used in English, does it? I wonder how imaginary clock face spatial mappings for direction, like, "There is a geographical feature at 4 o'clock", are translated.

This is just speculation but I've read Tagalog doesn't have number classifiers as Asian languages can, possibly for individualising or grouping, or possibly also corresponding with referencing or relating, as suggested can occur in the southeast, nor qualifiers. However, Tagalog numbers may have some changeable enclitic which might be something to do with this- maybe something very rudimentary or some remnant to do with context? Speculating further, perhaps borrowing Spanish solely for time-telling within that language, such a difference in itself might serve as something like this too, affording the sort of context or some relationship in the application of numbers that corresponds with a developed associative idea of time keeping, as the changeable enclitic speculatively might in other applications of number?
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on August 8th, 2016, 9:46 am 

I'll have to ask my friend about half-past and such. I do know that if a filipino talks about the 2nd hour, or other cardinal uses, they use Tagalog not Spanish numbers.

Enclitic! How is it you come across these words? Have you studied linguistics academically? Not quite sure what you mean having looked up "enclitic"?
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby neuro on August 9th, 2016, 10:10 am 

dandelion » August 7th, 2016, 5:11 am wrote: I wonder how imaginary clock face spatial mappings for direction, like, "There is a geographical feature at 4 o'clock", are translated.


I don't know in Spanish.
In Italian we would say "A ore 4" (literally, at four hours), or we use the PM hours: "il cappello sulle 23" (your hat at 11 PM, slightly slanted). I imagine it must be the same in Spanish.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby dandelion on August 9th, 2016, 11:47 pm 

Thanks Badger and Neuro, I don't know, it might not be worth considering at all, and contextually as written earlier in the thread, generally there is some response to a question that mentions some idea of time, and I think I've found in Spanish, things like "En punto" (roughly, "Exactly") may be added as some disambiguation, httphttp://www.spanishdict.com/translate/o'clock , and it seems reasonable to guess this occurs spatially too, adding "Horas" for example, but this was amongst translations included in the link which seemed similar to what I'd been thinking of and wondering about translations in Tagalog-
"aircraft approaching at five o'clock- se aproxima un aparato a las cinco"
(apparatus approaches the five, in Google translate)

Sorry, I'm not sure if the term I used was appropriate, because I think the number associated sounds are really very vague, but these are other examples of the term, if it gives some idea-
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagalog ... _particles

And no, but considerations like these were a small part of my studies, and my verbal expression and vocab is pretty rubbish!

Badger, with your larger interests in this thread, what are your views on any neurological research or other sorts of possible considerations like counting by other animals. Maybe ideas like this could be involved, from 2007, but if not it is pretty cute anyway-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPiDHXtM0VA
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby BadgerJelly on August 10th, 2016, 2:36 am 

I have had a hard time struggling to figure out how I could test my theory or whether or not it is simply too subtle. I cannot think of an experiment that would rule out every other possibility of human cognition.

From what I have mentioned previously regarding motherese and how Korean children are taught language compard to western children there is an obvious difference in abilities during infancy, but this difference disappears relatively quickly. As I am talking about adults and how they use numbers the difference, if any, may be too subtle for todays methods?

Just as a reminder. Korean children are taught prepositions (the motherese used toward the child is something like "on, on, off, off" whilst the mother moves objects around) and western children are taught the names of objects (the motherese used will in the same instance as previously refer to the names of objects, what is on and what it is on "cup, cup, table, table", the visual data being indentical for both children but the information being given being different). Once these children are set certain logical tasks the western children perform better at categorising whilst the Korean children perform better with positions in space. Once these children have learn more about their languages they both perform equally well at both tasks.

My problem here is trying to discern how to test any difference in cognitive abilities for a filipino and a non-filipino due to how they present the world in their uses of language, and specifically in reference to the use of bith Spanish and Tagalog numbers naturallt as one language.

I do think we would need MRI scans for this. What I would hope to see in the future is a way to map activation of temporal and spacial relation to mathematics. This is a very difficult idea to carry out. There are also numerous external factors that would probably impossible to rule out fully (such as other subtle differences in social and religious attitudes which are paet and parcel of our general outlook on the world).

Given how children are taught numbers I wouls expect this to be the most fruitful area to investigate, but the data previously mentioned does not highlight any longterm difference beyond a certain developmental stage in regard to Korean and western children. I would at least expect to find some differences in how a numerical problem is approached by filipino children and western children. Of course we would have to decide where to look for a difference and rule out other obvious differences in motherese first between native tongues.

While I am thinking about this problem I am looking for other instances parallel to native filipino speakers.
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Re: Linguistics and Numbers

Postby vivian maxine on August 10th, 2016, 5:06 am 

A las hora cuatro (en punto) It is (exactly) four o'clock. They have other forms for near. about, etc. Around here, they just say cuatro or es cuatro, cutting it short. I wasn't sure that was what you wanted - still not sure. But there it is.
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