Penglin Wang, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies, Central Washington University, WA, US
Series: Languages and Linguistics
How number words came about? This book offers a trenchant answer to the question, explaining number conception and application slot by slot through a host of Eurasian languages. The cross-linguistic lack of width and depth in numeracy studies, which has existed for a long time, seemed impossible to overcome. This discouraging situation has now changed dramatically with Dr. Penglin Wang’s entering the field. This book is designed to investigate the linguistic and semiotic sources of number words, especially the cardinal numbers, in Altaic, Indo-European, and Sino-Tibetan languages and will provide students of numeracy a more cognitive perspective on the problems they may face. The focus is on patterned explanations of each numerical formation as reflected in different languages.
This book contains intellectual merits in four respects. First, it addresses the etymological origins of the numerals, many of which have not received ultimate etymological explanations and even have not yet been discussed. Second, it enriches the existing methodology by launching a strategic shift from the heavy focus on hypothetical reconstructions to the search for cognitive patterns for number conception. Third, the analyses are interdisciplinary involving linguistics, anthropology, epistemology, semiotics, and history. Fourth, numerical reinterpretation and application is taken fully into consideration in the linguistic formation of numerals across the major language families in Eurasia. In addition, a distinction is made between grammaticality and variability in counting. The author delves into the theories correlating variability in counting with primitiveness, which was developed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and argues that variability in counting is not necessarily a primitive phenomenon. Instead, it could be triggered by the then increasing social complexity and progress.
It is the author’s goal to inject numeracy studies into the mainstream of human civilization studies. In this sense, this book not only seeks to supply a missing link in numerical connections in Eurasia, but also to reveals the deep-rooted cultural and linguistic exchange between East and West and its role in the course of civilization development. Given these merits, this book will be an indispensable guide for future research in this field; its results will be accessible to and be used by linguists, anthropologists, mathematicians, cognitive scientists, historians, and philosophers.