Wednesday, July 13


Failing French

I'm currently learning French, so this article caught my eye.

A Japanese governor has called French a "failed language," and he is being sued as a result.

While any Latinist would certainly consider French to be a disintegrated language, "failed" sounds harsh. But I have to agree with his reasoning: the number system.

Counting above 69 in French becomes very complicated: there is no word for 70, so one says "soixante dix," or "60-10," "60-11," or even more cumbersome, "soixant dix neuf," "60-10-9" for 79.

Eighty is even more confusing: it is read "quatre vingt," or "4 20." Thus, 88 become "4 20 8."

Ninety, however, takes the cake: "97" is "quatre vingt dix sept," or "4 20 10 7."

Apparently, this is vestigal of the Celtic numbering system, which was based not on 10 but 20. Therefore, the higher numbers are delineated by 20's, not 10's.

For the record, however, the problem is more with FRANCE than with the FRENCH LANGUAGE, because French-speakers in Belgium do, in fact, have words for 70, 80, and 90.

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