Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

The Arabic Origins of Numeral Words in English and European Languages

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

The Arabic Origins of Numeral Words in English and European Languages

Article excerpt


The aim of this paper is to the examine the genetic relationship between all numeral words in Arabic and English primarily as well as other European languages such as German, French, Greek, Latin and even Sanskrit secondarily. Contrary to long-held beliefs and views in Western comparative historical linguistics in which Arabic and English, for example, are classified as members of different language families, it shows how these numerals are related to and derived from one another, with Arabic being the end origin perhaps. The numeral words have the same or similar forms and meanings with slight phonetic changes as a result of normal linguistic evolution at the phonetic, morphological and lexical levels.

Keywords: Numerals, Arabic, English, German, Comparative linguistics, Lexical root theory

1. Introduction

Historical comparative linguists use numerals, especially low ones, to establish genetic relations between languages as they are part of the universal core or basic vocabulary which resists borrowing across languages (Campbell 2004: p. 126; Crowley 1997: p, 171; Pyles and Algeo 1993: pp. 76-77). The core numerals are usually the low numerals (Pyles and Algeo 1993: pp. 76-77) which vary in number according to the word list used. In Swadesh's 100-word list, only the numerals one and two occurred (Campbell 2006: pp. 201-202) whereas in his 200-word list (Crowley 1997: p. 174) the numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 20 and 100 were included; thus 6 and 9 were not on the list. These numerals have mostly similar or identical forms in all European or Indo-European languages of all branches like the Germanic family (e.g., English, German), the Italic (e.g., French, Italian), the Hellenic (e.g., Greek), the Slavic (e.g., Russian) and the Indic (e.g., Sanskrit) (for a survey, see Crystal 2010: p. 308; Campbell 2006: pp. 190-191).

According to all comparative historical linguists, Arabic and English belong to entirely different language families: one Semitic and one Germanic (e.g., Crystal 2010; Viney 2008; Kirkpatrick 2007; Campbell 2006; Pyles and Algeo 1993; Ruhlen 1987, 1994). Therefore, Arabic numerals are not genetically related to those of English or any Indo-European family. This paper will prove that they really are, with Arabic being the end origin of them all from one to trillion. The paper has five sections: section one is introductory, section two introduces the numeral data, section three deals with data analysis, section four describes the results, and section five is discussion and conclusion.

2. The Data: Numeral Words in Arabic and English

The data consists of all the numerals, both low and high, in Arabic and English in the main as well as other European languages, which will be examined to confirm not only their common genetic origin but also their Arabic origin as well. In fact, the main reason for including numerals from other European languages here is to trace linguistic development so as to be able to resolve linguistic matters and set up relationships accurately. All these Arabic and English numerals are included in the dialogue below.

Saphia: Can you count from one to ten in English, Sally?

Sally: Yes, I can count from one even to trillion. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen... nineteen, twenty, twenty one, thirty ... ninety, a hundred, a thousand, a million, a billion, and a trillion. Or first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc.

Saphia: Very good. Can you count that in Arabic?

Sally: Yes, I can. waa2id, ithnan, thalathat, arba3at, khamsat, sittat, sab3at, thamaniat, tis3at, 3ashrat, a2ad 3ashrat, ithnata 3ashar, thalata 3ahar .... 3ishreen, waa2id wa 3ishreen, thalatheen .... tis3een, miyat, alf, alf alf (malyon), balyon, trilyon. Or 2aadi (or awwal), thani, thalith, raabi3, khamis, sadis, etc.

Saphia: Excellent. Can you count in French and German also?

Sally: Yes. I can also do that in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Russian because all such numbers are alike in general. …

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