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Journal of African Languages and Linguistics

Ed. by Ameka, Felix K. / Amha, Azeb

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Volume 35, Issue 1


Numerals and number words in Shua

William B. McGregor
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  • Linguistics, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2, Office 1485-617, DK-8000 Århus C, Denmark
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Published Online: 2014-05-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2014-0002


This paper is concerned with expressions of numerical concepts in Shua, an endangered Khoe-Kwadi language spoken in north-eastern Botswana. It is demonstrated that a range of different systems of number representation are available to speakers. These differ in terms of the degrees to which they are integrated into the system of the language. A set of defining criteria for numerals as a lexical category is proposed, and it is argued that only members of one of the paradigmatic sets of number expressions satisfy all of the criteria. This is a “restricted” system of numerals distinguishing just ‘1, 2, 3, 4, few, many’. A detailed description of the morphosyntactic features of the members of this system is provided. Similarly, a detailed description is provided of features of the modern elaborated and extended set of number words, which are based primarily on borrowings from English, but also include extensions of terms for monetary units. The range of senses and uses of the numerals and other expressions of numbers is overviewed, including distributive and collective senses.

Keywords: distributive constructions; Khoe-Kwadi family; number gestures; restricted numeral systems; senses of numerals; Shua grammar and lexicon

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Published Online: 2014-05-10

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Volume 35, Issue 1, Pages 45–90, ISSN (Online) 1613-3811, ISSN (Print) 0167-6164, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2014-0002.

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