[394/441] Numerals

Thankfully for the non-numerical minded people, this post is not about math at all, but just about the use of numbers as words.  It is an interesting comment (I think) about language, as it occasionally comes up when I am reading Hebrew and see a numeral in the text.

This post also somewhat relates to the “Accent” post from last year, or at least the photo therein.  Recall that the photo there showed a security warning about leaving the doors open in Engelhart.  The latter two lines show Eastern languages, but with “Engelhart” interspersed.  This is almost as strange, with Eastern languages, as when numerals appear in the sentences.

So, last night, in my Hebrew class, we read a passage about some of the history of Jerusalem.  Of course, when there is history, there are numbers corresponding to years.  In the text, for example, there was the following sentence:  “בשנת 1948 חזרה ירושלים והיתה בחלקה לבירתה של מדינת ישראל העצמאית” (in the year 1948, Jerusalem returned to being the partial capital of an independent State of Israel).

When I read it aloud in class, I had to be careful to pronounce the number as אלף תשע-מאות ארבעים ושמונה (elef t’sha meot arba’im v’shmoneh) instead of “nineteen-forty-eight.”

Whenever I see a numeral, whether it is in a passage of English, Hebrew, or Spanish (the three languages which I can read and pronounce), if I am reading either aloud or to myself, I have to make sure that I read the number in its original language, as opposed to always in English.  This is because in MY schema, a numeral represents an English word, rather than a local-language word for the number.

I wonder if anyone whose native language is NOT English has the opposite problem: when seeing a numeral in an English sentence, has to avoid pronouncing it as if it were in their native language?

It’s an interesting mechanism, how even though numerals are “supposedly universal,” the expression in language is definitely not.


Today is the three-hundred and ninety-fourth day of Mission 441.  There are 47 days remaining.  (Yes, I intentionally used a numeral there.)

! אכתוב עוד 47 ימים בשביל “מיסיון 441.” כיף לכתוב בעברית


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