Article published in:Language Complexity: Typology, contact, change
Edited by Matti Miestamo, Kaius Sinnemäki and Fred Karlsson
[Studies in Language Companion Series 94] 2008
► pp. 287–304
Complexity in numeral systems with an investigation into pidgins and creoles
This paper defines and surveys numeral systems from languages across the world. We define the complexity of a numeral system in some detail and give examples of varying complexity from different languages. The examples are chosen to illustrate the bounds on complexity that actually occur in natural languages and to delineate tricky issues of analysis. Then we contrast the complexity in numeral systems of pidgin/creole languages versus their lexifiers and versus languages generally in the world. It turns out that pidgins/creoles have slightly less complex numeral systems than their lexifiers, but probably still more complex than the world average. However, the conclusions in this respect are limited by gaps in documentation and unsystematic knowledge of the linguistic and social history of alleged pidgin/creole languages.
Published online: 06 February 2008