Chapter 35: Ordinal numerals

Feature information for this chapter can be found in feature 35.

1. Feature description

This feature compares ordinal numerals (‘first, second, third ...’) with adnominal cardinal numerals (‘one, two, three ...’). There are different ways in which ordinal numerals are formed, especially with regard to ‘first’ and ‘second’, which are often irregular.

Since we are considering only synchrony, words like English third and fifth are not considered derived from three and five, although from a diachronic perspective they are of course derived.

This feature corresponds partially to WALS feature 53 (Stolz & Veselinova 2005).

Three derivational strategies occur in the APiCS languages: (a) affix (e.g. Cavite Chabacano ika-dos ‘second’), (b) “number” + numeral (e.g. Tok Pisin nambafaiv ‘fifth’), and (c) genitive particle (e.g. Kinubi ta itnášer ‘twelfth’, lit. ‘of twelve’).

2. The values

We distinguish the following eight values:

Ordinal numerals do not exist404
Cardinal and ordinal numerals are identical except for ‘one’ and ‘first’516
All ordinal numerals are synchronically derived from cardinal numerals448
All ordinal numerals are synchronically derived from cardinal numerals, but ‘first’ may also be suppletive303
'First' is suppletive, all other numerals are synchronically derived from cardinal numerals20323
‘First’, ‘second’, or more are suppletive, the others are synchronically derived from cardinal numerals12719
All ordinal numerals are suppletive617
Other solutions527

Value 1 (ordinal numerals do not exist) pertains to only four languages: Berbice Dutch, the bilingual mixed language Gurindji Kriol, Tayo, and Pidgin Hindustani.

Value 2 (cardinal and ordinal numerals are identical except for ‘one’ and ‘first’) occurs in Angolar, Fa d’Ambô, Ternate Chabacano, Early Sranan, Sango, and Lingala.

at the first rooster crow, at the second rooster crow, at the third rooster crow

Value 3 (all ordinal numerals are synchronically derived from cardinal numerals) occurs in 5 English-based languages, in 2 Malay-based languages, and in Papiá Kristang.

Two strategies are used: “number” + cardinal numeral and derivational affix. “Number” + cardinal numeral occurs in Papiá Kristang (namba dos ‘second’), Cameroon Pidgin English (namba wan ‘first’, namba tu ‘second’), Ghanaian Pidgin English (nɔmba wan ‘first’, nɔmba tu ‘second’), Nigerian Pidgin (nomba won, nomba tu), Creolese (maan nomba faiv ‘the fifth man’), Tok Pisin (nambawan ‘first’, nambafaiv ‘fifth’), and Singapore Bazaar Malay (namar satu ‘first’). A derivational affix is used in Sri Lankan Malay (kə-sattu ‘first’, kə-ðua ‘second’).

Value 4 (all ordinal numerals are synchronically derived from cardinal numerals, but ‘first’ may also be suppletive) occurs in Bislama (nambawan vs. fes ‘first’, nambatri ‘third’), Chinese Pidgin English (number one vs. first, number five ‘fifth’), and Kinubi (ta wáy ‘of one’, ta awalán ‘of first’, ta itnášer ‘of twelve’).

Value 5 (‘first’ is suppletive, all other ordinals are synchronically derived from cardinals) occurs in 5 Ibero-Romance-based languages, in 4 English-based languages, in 8 French-based languages, in 3 Bantu-based languages, as well as in Negerhollands, Ambon Malay, Mixed Ma’a/Mbugu, and Michif.

In European-based languages exhibiting value 5, the word for ‘first’ is derived from the European base language (Portuguese primeiro, Spanish primero, English first, French premier, Dutch eerste), as for example Sri Lanka Portuguese primeer or prumeer, Nengee fosi, Guyanais premyè, and Negerhollands estə. Cavite Chabacano exhibits an unusual strategy: It uses the Spanish masculine form uno for ‘one’ and the feminine form una for ‘first’. In Lingala, we find ya libosó ‘of front’.

Regarding the derived forms for ‘two’ upwards, there are four different strategies occurring in the APiCS languages.

One derivational strategy is to use lexifier-based or adstrate-based affixes:

Sri Lanka Portuguese doz-er 'second'
Guadeloupean Creole and others dé-zyèm 'second'
Negerhollands twee-də 'second'
Ambon Malay ka-dua 'second'
Cavite and Zamboanga Chabacano ika-dos 'second'

Note that in Portuguese, the suffix –eiro exists only in prim-eiro ‘first’ and terc-eiro ‘third’; in Sri Lanka Portuguese, this suffix has been extended to the other numerals.

Another strategy is to use the genitive particle to form ordinals from cardinals: di in Casamancese Creole and Papiamentu (di tres ‘third’), fu in Nengee and Sranan (fu tu ‘second’), or the (originally gender-agreeing) genitive particle -a/ya in Bantu-based languages (Kikongo-Kituba, Lingala, Mixed Ma’a/Mbugu) (e.g. Kikongo-Kituba ya zole ‘second’). This strategy is also found in Guinea-Bissau Kriyol and Early Sranan, but only for pronominal, not adnominal, ordinals: di unzi ‘the eleventh’, di fu dri ‘the third’.

Still another strategy is “number” + cardinal numeral, which is found in Pichi and Fanakalo.

Finally, Saramaccan uses ‘for make’: di fu mbei tu ‘the second’, literally ‘the for make two’. This strategy is also found in Early Sranan, but only for pronominal ordinals: disi fu meki tri ‘the third’ (see also Santome in example 3 for a similar strategy involving the verb ‘do, make’).

Value 6 (‘first’, ‘second’, or more are suppletive, the others are regular) occurs in 3 Iberian-based languages, in 16 English-based languages, in Mauritian Creole, and in Juba Arabic. Some examples are:

Santome plumê 'first', sêgundu 'second', tlusêlu 'third', ku ka fe dôzê [REL HAB make twelve] 'twelfth'
Cameroon Pidgin English fes, sekend, nomba tri
Gullah firs, secon, thuteen-t
Juba Arabic áwal 'first', táni 'second', ta sitta 'sixth'

Value 7 (all ordinal numerals are suppletive) occurs almost exclusively in Ibero-Romance-based languages, though not in all: in the three Cape Verdean varieties (Brava, Santiago, São Vicente), in Guinea-Bissau Kriyol, in Ternate Chabacano, and in Palenquero. The only non-Ibero-Romance-based language having this value is Krio.

Cape Verdean Creole of Brava primeru 'first', segundu 'second', terseru 'third', kuartu 'fourth'
Palenquero primero 'first', segundo 'second', tersero 'third', kuarto 'fourth'

Value 8 (other solutions) is attested in 7 languages. Afrikaans has suppletive forms for 1 and 3, and the others derived (een/eerste ‘one/first’, drie/derde ‘three/third’, vs. twee/tweede ‘two/second’, vier/vierde ‘four/forth’, vyf/vyfde ‘five/fifth’).

In Nicaraguan Creole English and San Andres Creole English, the forms for 1-5 are suppletive, and the others are identical to the cardinal numerals. A similar situation is found in Creolese: ‘first’ and ‘third’ are suppletive, the others are identical to the cardinal numerals.

Korlai uses ordinals borrowed from the adstrate language Marathi, and in Diu Indo-Portuguese, Portuguese-derived ordinals from 1-6 are suppletive (pimer ‘first’ vs. ũ ‘one’). Some speakers use the suffix -m to derive ordinals from cardinals above six: oyt-m ‘eigth’ vs. oyt ‘eight’; there is, however, a tendency to use English ordinals in everyday speech.

Pidgin Hawaiian differentiates cardinals from ordinals syntactically. Cardinals usually have the order numeral + noun, while ordinals have the order noun + numeral: alima manawa ‘five times’, kani akolu ‘third sound’, literally ‘sound three’.

3. Distribution

There is no particular areal distribution of the values of this feature, and the comparison with WALS does not show any similarity, except for the fact that the APiCS values 5 and 6 are also the most widespread values in WALS (34% and 19%, respectively).

With respect to the lexifier, the English-based languages have a strong tendency to exhibit value 6 (first’, ‘second’, or more are suppletive, the others are regular), namely 16 out of 27 languages, and value 7 occurs almost exclusively in Portuguese- and Spanish-based languages.

Regarding the derivational strategies, the most common strategy is the use of a lexifier-based or adstrate-based affix (23 languages). It occurs in 4 Ibero-Romance-based languages, in 7 English-based languages, in 9 French-based languages, in Negerhollands, in Sri Lankan Malay, and in Ambon Malay.

The strategy ‘number + cardinal numeral’ occurs in 8 English-based languages, in Fanakalo, in Singapore Bazaar Malay, and in Papiá Kristang. It occurs in three true pidgins (Chinese Pidgin English, Fanakalo, Singapore Bazaar Malay), but is totally absent from French-based and Ibero-Romance-based languages (with the exception of Papiá Kristang), and, generally speaking, is absent from the Caribbean (including most of the English-based languages).

The strategy involving the genitive adposition or affix is present in two Iberian-based languages (Casamancese Creole, Papiamentu), in two English-based languages (Nengee, Sranan), in three Bantu-based languages (Kikongo-Kituba, Lingala, Mixed Ma’a/Mbugu), and in two Arabic-based languages (Juba Arabic and Kinubi). It is also present in Guinea-Bissau Kriyol and Early Sranan but only with pronominal ordinals.