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Arabic numerals

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:49 am
by Archived Topic
When writing arabic, from right to left, numbers are in the same order as European ones - not reversed. Presumably Arabs don't leave a gap to write them left to right, yet our numerals came from them. Does this mean that until recent times, we and they always read them backwards? e.g. 'four and twenty', five and twenty', and similarly for longer numbers?
Submitted by John Barton (New Plymouth - New Zealand)

Arabic numerals

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:17 am
by Archived Reply
Many people in this country of the older generation, still use say numbers as 'four and twenty' (think 'four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie'), five and twenty etc. The German language supports this method too, as in 'vier und zwanzig, funf und zwanzig' (twenty-four and twenty-five) whilst the Arabs also use this method to pronounce their numbers, 'arba'a we eshereen, khamsa we eshereen' (twenty-four and twenty five). When writing Arabic this method slips the numerals nicely into the text, in the same written order as the letters, as we would use them. However, when the numbers reach 100 and above, the higher number is always pronounced first, as in 'maya, arba'a we eshereen'(124), 'khamistalaf, maya, arba'a we eshereen' (5124). The same goes for German. So, yes, a big enough gap is left for writing down the full number. It is also worth noting that the Arabic numerals used in the Arab world today, are of Indian origin, whilst the Westernised numerals we use are the original Arabic numerals. These numerals were used to replace the Roman numerals widely used throughout the Roman Empire. Of course, the Romans did not have a zero, as it had not been 'discovered' causing mathematics to be somewhat difficult. As the Arabs were the early pioneers of mathematics and having discovered 'Zero' ('zifr' in Arabic), their system of number worked, and was adopted througout the western world.
Reply from Michael Vincent (Portsmouth - England)

Arabic numerals

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:32 am
by Archived Reply
Thanks very much, Michael. I well remember during the war years when news announcers such as Bruce Belfridge first started saying 'The time is six twenty-five' and thinking how ridiculous it sounded. Playing dominoes with an arab in Milan once, I think we called the double blank '[double] mafeesh', but my arabic is very poor, and terms for dominoes may be different like dice in English (ace, deuce,tray, cater, syce).
These days, maths magazines print articles with huge numbers - leaving a gap must be highly inconvenient!
Reply from John Barton (New Plymouth - New Zealand)

Arabic numerals

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:46 am
by Archived Reply
Until very recently, Libya adopted the Arabic numerals. Before that we used the Arabic-Indic:٠ ١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩
I am not very sure what the rest of the Arab world uses, it could be a combination of both. For those interested in this the Wikipedia gives an extensive and thorough explanation of the different sets of glyphs(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals).
John,the use of 'mafeesh' is correct.It literally means; there is not, nothing. You can also say ' Ma Ahandisch', this is more from the Libyan dialect of conversational Arabic.

Ahmed
16th of August,2004


Reply from Ahmed ELNamer (Dawson Creek - Canada)

Arabic numerals

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:01 am
by Archived Reply
Sorry, some how the numbers did not show up after I submitted my response even though they were in the box. You will need to go to the site to see what I am referring too.
Ahmed
Reply from Ahmed ELNamer (Dawson Creek - Canada)