This chapter deals with the order of the cardinal numeral and the noun in a noun phrase. Cardinal numerals are numerals that denote the number of things in the set referred to by the noun phrase, e.g. seven houses. This chapter closely parallels Dryer’s (2005i) WALS chapter.
Note that elsewhere, APiCS deals with distributive numerals (e.g. two balls each, Chapter 34), ordinal numerals (e.g. the fifth street, Chapter 35), and with numeral classifiers (Chapter 36). The complexity of numeral systems in pidgins and creoles is discussed by Hammarström (2008).
In the great majority of APiCS languages, the numeral precedes the noun:
|Numeral precedes noun||61||8||69|
|Numeral follows noun||7||8||15|
The world’s languages are much more balanced, with most African and Southeast Asian languages as well as many languages in New Guinea and Australia showing postposed numerals (Dryer 2005i). In view of the generally string African influence on Atlantic pidgins and creoles, one might have expected more postposed numerals.
In the great majority (61) of APiCS languages, numerals can only precede the noun. This is the case in almost all languages of the Americas, West Africa and Asia. Evidently, the numeral-noun order follows the order of the European lexifier in most of these languages.
Not accidentally, the indefinite article also precedes the noun in all these languages (see Chapter 10)—it almost always derives from the numeral ‘one’.
Seven languages have only postposed numerals. They are all spoken in areas where the indigenous languages overwhelmingly show postposed numerals as well. The order numeral-noun in the central African languages follows the order in the Bantu and Ubangian lexifiers:
In Kinubi, all numerals follow the noun, even though in its Arabic lexifier, only a few lower numerals follow the noun. Thus, here the influence of the South Sudanese substrate languages seems to have imposed itself.
Another language where the African substrate overrides the order of the lexifier is the Portuguese-based Gulf of Guinea creole Fa d’Ambô:
One language of New Guinea also has only postposed numerals:
This order is the same in Yimas (Foley 1991: 101), and in many other indigenous languages of New Guinea.
Eight languages have both orders, numeral-noun and noun-numeral. Often the same numeral can occur preposed or postposed to the noun, as in (11) and (12) below. Two of these languages are Gulf of Guinea creoles, where African influence was strong (as in Fa d’Ambô in (9) above).
In both languages, the order with postposed numerals is much less common. In Principense, it now occurs only with the numeral ũa ‘one’, though in former times, all numerals could follow the noun. In Santome, postposed numerals are rare and are most acceptable with low numerals. This suggests that postposed position (as in Fa d’Ambô) was once the norm in Principense and Santome, and that the preposed position is due to influence from Portuguese (with lower numbers resisting the change because of their higher frequency).
In Ambon Malay, too, postposed numerals occur particularly with the lower numerals (especially 1-10), and “the occurrence of numerals preceding the head noun may be due to recent influence from Indonesian” (Paauw 2013). Since postposed numerals are the norm in the indigenous languages throughout eastern Indonesia (Dryer 2005i), and the varieties of Malay that are spoken in its western homeland regions have preposed numerals, it is likely that the noun-numeral order is due to substrate influence.
In both these languages, numerals may carry the suffix -bala, which corresponds to -pela in Melanesian Pidgin (e.g. Tok Pisin tri-pela haus ‘three houses’), ultimately deriving from English fellow.
The origin of postposed and preposed numerals in Eskimo Pidgin is unclear. It seems that Iñupiaq has preposed numerals (Lanz 2010: §5.1.2), but postposed numerals occur in the related West Greenlandic (Fortescue 1984: 110), so perhaps they were also present in some of the Eskimo varieties that contributed to the making of Eskimo Pidgin.