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Formation of numerals in the romance languages

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Bauer,  Brigitte L. M.
Other Research, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Bauer, B. L. M. (2021). Formation of numerals in the romance languages. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.685.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-F40E-6
Abstract
The Romance languages have a rich numeral system that includes cardinals—providing the bases on which the other types of numeral series are built—ordinals, fractions, collectives, approximatives, distributives, and multiplicatives. Latin plays a decisive and continued role in their formation, both as the language to which many numerals go back directly and as an ongoing source for lexemes and formatives. While the Latin numeral system was synthetic, with a distinct ending for each type of numeral, the Romance numerals often feature more than one (unevenly distributed) marker or structure per series, which feature varying degrees of inherited, borrowed, or innovative elements. Formal consistency is strongest in cardinals, followed by ordinals and then the other types of numeral, which also tend to be more analytic or periphrastic. From a morphological perspective, Romance numerals overall have moved away from the inherited syntheticity, but several series continue to be synthetic formations—at least in part—with morphological markers drawn from Latin that may have undergone functional change (e.g. distributive > ordinal > collective). The underlying syntax of Romance numerals is in line with the overall grammatical patterns of Romance languages, as reflected in the prevalence of word order (with arithmetical correlates), connectors, (partial) loss of agreement, and analyticity. Innovation is prominent in the formation of higher numerals with bases beyond ‘thousand’, of teens and decads in Romanian, and of vigesimals in numerous Romance varieties.