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September 02, 2012

More On Words and Numbers

Some scholars consider mathematics its own language. Perhaps it is, but...

...as I mentioned in my previous entry, how we use and think about numbers - and our words for numbers - can have a lot to do with how we approach and conceptualize math and math problems.

For example, one aspect of learning a foreign language that surprises most language learners is how numbers are framed by language.

As with perhaps every aspect of language, we assume that our native language is the standard by which every language should be judged.

When it comes to numbers, most of us who are native speakers of English are stunned to word configurations like 'two-tens and three" or even "one-ten and two". Where did we get "twenty-three"? Or "twelve"?

Or how about "eleven"? That is the absolute strangest number. Is there any hint there of 'ten' plus 'one'?

But all the numbers between ten and twenty are very odd when you think about them. 'Sixteen', 'seventeen', 'eighteen' and 'nineteen' make sense - it's 'six plus ten' and so on.

But what about 'thirteen'? Why isn't it 'threeteen'?

And why not 'two-teen' instead of 'twelve'?

And yes, I do stay up all night in my garret and think about such things. I probably do need to get out more ;-).

But if you have real math to work on, you can't do better than the Khan Academy. It's free and you can find it here - http://www.khanacademy.org/exercisedashboard.

Be sure to send us any new words or phrases that baffle you and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

Posted by mmorf at September 2, 2012 10:48 PM

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