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‘Anumeric’ People: What Happens When A Language Has No Words For Numbers?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

A Pirahã family. Caleb Everett, CC BY-SA

Numbers do not exist in all cultures. There are numberless hunter-gatherers embedded deep in Amazonia, living along branches of the world’s largest river tree. Instead of using words for precise quantities, these people rely exclusively on terms analogous to “a few” or “some.”

In contrast, our own lives are governed by numbers. As you read this, you are likely aware of what time it is, how old you are, your checking account balance, your weight and so on. The exact (and exacting) numbers we think with impact everything from our schedules to our self-esteem.

But, in a historical sense, numerically fixated people like us are the unusual ones. For the bulk of our species’ approximately 200,000-year lifespan, we had no means of precisely representing quantities. What’s more, the 7,000 or so languages that exist today vary dramatically in how they utilize numbers.

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About The Owl Lady

Viv Drewa is a Michigan native who has enjoyed reading and writing since 1963. Though she studied medicinal chemistry at the University of Michigan, her passion has always been writing. She had been awarded third place for her nonfiction short story about her grandfather's escape from Poland. Later, she rewrote this story and was published in the "Polish American Journal" as "From the Pages of Grandfather's Life" and has republished it on Amazon.com as a short story. Viv took creative and journalism courses to help in her transition to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. She worked as an intern for Port Huron's 'The Times Herald", and also wrote, edited and did the layout or the Blue Water Multiple Sclerosis newsletter "Thumb Prints." She also has a business promoting authors. Owl and Pussycat Book Promotions. Viv, her husband Bob and their cat Princess, live in Fort Gratiot, Michigan.

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