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Some thoughts on the Proto-Indo-European cardinal numbers

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Abstract

This paper takes a fresh look at the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European cardinal numbers. Evidence is presented that the earliest form of the number “two” was (in traditional reconstruction) *<i>do- </i>and that the form usually given in the standard handbooks, namely, *<i>duw&#333;/*dw&#333;</i>, was a later borrowing, probably from Northwest Caucasian. Moreover, the earliest form of the number “four” was *<i>Hokh-tho-</i>. It is preserved in the number “eight”, *<i>Hokh-thoH(w)</i>, which is a later dual form meaning “two fours”. The forms *<i>meyu- </i>“four”, found in the Anatolian branch, and *<i>kwhéth-wor- </i>“four”, found in the non-Anatolian daughter languages, are both later innovations. Finally, the number “ten”, <i>de-kmo t-</i>, is taken to be an old compound meaning “two hands”, as often suggested in the literature.

References

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