Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/268

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sides' (i.e. both hands), 20 as sa re ngome, 'one man,' &c.; thus in John v. 5 'which had an infirmity thirty and eight years,' the numeral 38 is expressed by the phrase, 'one man and both sides five and three.'[1] In the Malayo-Polynesian languages, the typical word for 5 is lima or rima, 'hand,' and the connexion is not lost by the phonetic variations among different branches of this family of languages, as in Malagasy dimy, Marquesan fima, Tongan nima, but while lima and its varieties mean 5 in almost all Malayo-Polynesian dialects, its meaning of 'hand' is confined to a much narrower district, showing that the word became more permanent by passing into the condition of a traditional numeral. In languages of the Malayo-Polynesian family, it is usually found that 6, &c., are carried on with words whose etymology is no longer obvious, but the forms lima-sa, lima-zua 'hand-one,' 'hand-two,' have been found doing duty for 6 and 7.[2] In West Africa, Kölle's account of the Vei language gives a case in point. These negroes are so dependent on their fingers that some can hardly count without , and their toes are convenient as the calculator squats on the ground. The Vei people and many other African tribes, when counting, first count the fingers of their left hand, beginning, be it remembered, from the little one, then in the same manner those of the right hand, and afterwards the toes. The Vei numeral for 20, mō bánde, means obviously 'a person (mo) is finished (bande),' and similarly 40, 60, 80, &c. ' two men, three men, four men, &c., are finished.' It is an interesting point that the negroes who used these phrases had lost their original descriptive sense — the words have become mere numerals to them.[3] Lastly, for bringing before our minds a picture of a man counting upon his fingers, and being struck by the idea that if he describes his gestures in words, these words may become an

  1. Gabelentz, 'Melanesiche Sprachen,' p. 183.
  2. W. v. Humboldt, 'Kawi-Spr.' vol. ii. p. 308; corroborated by 'As. Res.' vol. vi. p. 90; 'Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. iii. p. 182, &c.
  3. Kölle, 'Gr. of Vei Lang.' p. 27.