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Wa Numbering Systems

Updated 2005.01.27

The Wa people have two main sets of numbers, one native and one borrowed from Tai (Shan), which are used separately and mixed together, depending on the size of the number, the context, and the region where used. These are enumerated in the chart of number correspondences.

The following description is based on Zhou Zhizhi 周植志 and Yan Qixiang 颜其香, Wayu jianzhi 佤语简志, pp. 40-50.

Cardinal numbers

The Parauk dialect uses the numbers borrowed from Tai for all numbers between 30 and 99; the Va dialect uses the borrowed Tai numbers only for the 10's and from 31 to 39 etc. uses native numbers for the one's place; the Ava dialect uses various morphological processes to form the multiples of 10 from 20 to 90: 1) alternation of the vowel between /a/ and /uɛ[epsilon]/ to form 20 and 30; 2) [to be continued].

The numbers borrowed from Tai are also usually used for small weights using the traditional system of taels or liang (Wa róng, equal to 38-50 grams) and ticals or qian (Wa thei, equal to 3-5? grams).

Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers in Wa (of the type "the first," "the second," etc.) are formed by simply placing the cardinal number after the noun which it modifies, as in the syntactic ordinal formation in English ("book 1," "day 2," etc.). E.g.,

  • grong ra "the second item" (cf. ra grong, "two items")
  • khix loui "the third month" (or "March") (cf. loui khix, "3 months")
  • phug tíx "the first volume, Volume 1" (cf. tíx phug "one book")

See chart of number correspondences (working draft, updated 2005-06-23).

Data in the chart comes from many sources, including the following (for full citations, see Wa bibliography):

  • Wa-Han jianming cidian 佤汉简明词典
  • Zhou Zhizhi et al., Wayu jianzhi 佤语简志, pp. 30-40
  • Zhao Yanshe and Zhao Fuhe, Wayu yufa 佤语语法, pp. 183-207
  • Ai Pao Pleek Sgu, Lai Vax, Phuk Lai Gau, Glawg 2, p.25
  • Ai Pao Pleek Sgu, Lai Si Min, Phuk Lai Gau, Glawk Jah, p.6
  • Yan Qixiang and Zhou Zhizhi, Zhongguo Meng-Gaomian yuzu yuyan yu nanya yuxi 中国孟高棉语族语言与南亚语系, pp. 370-373, 397ff.

Discrepancies in the data may be due to regional variation, to lapses in cultural memory, to transcription errors in the sources used, or they may simply be mistakes.

Arts and Humanities Research Council School of Oriental and African Studies

The Wa Dictionary Project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and hosted at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Please send suggestions, queries or comments to Justin Watkins or Richard Kunst.