Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/277

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259
VARIOUS NUMERAL TERMS.

then put in ς for 6, and so manage to let ι stand for 10, as י does in Hebrew, where it is really the 10th letter. Now, having this conventional arrangement of letters made, it is evident that a Greek who had to give up the regular 1, 2, 3, — εἷς, δύο, τρεῖς, could supply their places at once by adopting the names of the letters which had been settled to stand for them, thus calling 1 alpha, 2 beta, 3 gamma, and so onward. The thing has actually happened; a remarkable slang dialect of Albania, which is Greek in structure, though full of borrowed and mystified words and metaphors and epithets understood only by the initiated, has, as its equivalent for 'four' and 'ten,' the words δέλτα and ἰῶτα[1]

While insisting on the value of such evidence as this in making out the general principles of the formation of numerals, I have not found it profitable to undertake the task of etymologizing the actual numerals of the languages of the world, outside the safe limits of the systems of digit-numerals among the lower races, already discussed. There may be in the languages of the lower races other relics of the etymology of numerals, giving the clue to the ideas according to which they were selected for an arithmetical purpose, but such relics seem scanty and indistinct.[2] There may even exist vestiges of a growth of numerals from descriptive words in our Indo-European languages, in Hebrew and Arabic, in Chinese. Such etymologies have been

  1. Francisque-Michel, 'Argot,' p. 483.
  2. Of evidence of this class, the following deserves attention: — Dobrizhoffer 'Abipones,' vol. ii. p. 169, gives geyenkñatè, 'ostrich-toes,' as the numeral for 4, their ostrich having three toes before and one behind, and neènhalek, 'a five-coloured spotted hide,' as the numeral;. D'Orbigny, 'L'Homme Américain,' vol. ii. p. 163, remarks: 'Les Chiquitos ne savent compter que jusqu'à un (tama), n'ayant plus ensuite que des termes de comparaison.' Kölle, 'Gr. of Vei Lang.,' notices that féra means both 'with' and 2, and thinks the former meaning original (compare the Tah. piti, 'together,' thence 2). Quichua chuncu, 'heap,' chunca, 10, may be connected. Aztec, ce, 1, cen-tli, 'grain,' may be connected. On possible derivations of 2 from hand, &c., especially Hottentot, t'koam, 'hand, 2,' see Pott, 'Zählmethode,' p. 29.