Chapter 13. Numerals in Papuan languages of the Greater Awyu family

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Numeral systems of the Greater Awyu family of Papuan languages are the topic of this paper. Extended body-part systems that employ the fingers, parts of the arm and head are used by most languages in this family. Body-part based numeral systems of this type are only found in parts of New Guinea and Australia and are therefore of great interest for the typology of numeral systems. They are closed systems, with 23, 25 or 27 as highest number in the languages of the Greater Awyu family. They are also interesting because of the role of conventional gestures to distinguish the primary body-part meaning from the secondary numeral meaning. The extended body-part systems are used in combination withelementary numerals for 1 to 4 that are not derived from body-parts. One subgroup of the Greater Awyu family, the Awyu subgroup, uses a hands-and-feet system which they borrowed from their neighbours. Such systems differ radically from extended body-part systems: they distinguish base and derived numbers, they are in principle open-ended (without a highest number) and they are not restricted to New Guinea. The paper describes the cultural contexts in which thenumeral systems of the Greater Awyu family function and pays attention to the interaction with borrowed Indonesian numerals.


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