A number is a number, whatever language you may use.
Or so I used to think.
I was reading Malcolm Galdwell’s Outliers, where he discusses why the Chinese are better at maths.
And then the difference struck me. For those who know Hindi and English, try figuring out what’s the difference between forty two and bayalees.
Figured it out?
Forty two in English is written tens first and units last. Bayalees is the other way round. But Tamil gets the English order again – naapati (forty) erendu (two). Strange.
Why is it odd, you may ask. When we move to 142, English retains the order – hundreds is written first, tens second and units digit last. But its a mangled mess in Hindi and Gujarati. 142 in Hindi is ek sau bayalees – hundreds, units and then the tens digit. 142 in Tamil is nooti naapati erendu – same case as in English.
Hindi is a derivative of sanskrit, one of the most organized languages in terms of grammar and alphabet. Why this esoteric leap when it comes to numbers? Did the anient indian not know how to count beyond 100 when they designed names for numbers? Surely someone would have seen the flaw then….
And how does Tamil retain the number structure of English?considering the amount of influence Sanskrit has had on Tamil (linguistically minimal, but many of the prayers recited are in Sanskrit) there must have been some cross pollination in numbers. What do you think?