Endangerment and Revitalization of Indigenous Numeral Systems of South Asia

Author: Mamta Kumari (Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
Speaker: Mamta Kumari
Topic: Language Revitalization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Numerals are intriguing linguistic categories: These lexical elements grammatically effect and employ a generative system while deriving higher values; they also interact with grammatical systems of quantification. Numeral systems are noteworthy for their cross linguistic variation. Languages range from having no precise numeral terms to having systems whose limits are infinite. As Anderson (2005) indicates, numerals are a liminal linguistic category subject to cultural elaboration.

This paper shows the endangerment of numeral systems (with examples) and need of their revitalization in languages of South Asia. It presents efforts needed to increase the vitality of numeral systems. Rich morphosyntactic structures of numerals are vanishing, in languages such as Khasi, Bodo, Kurukh, Santali, Mundari, Tangkhul, Thangal, and Khasi. Many features exist in numerals whose retention is important, in order to prevent language and culture degradation. Numeration interrelates with language. This paper presents that numeral systems of dominant languages have ousted indigenous numeral systems to extinction. Popularized languages are adapting towards decimal counting systems.

Younger generations are moving away from traditional numeral systems (for example, Kurukh numeral systems), as they use the dominant variety. Here, it becomes crucial to preserve the numeral system of languages which are experiencing language mixing and linguistic genocide, and as a result of which, other language systems are quickly vanishing along with the mathematical complex structures they contain.


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Keywords: South Asia