Language formalities
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Comparative study - Numbers and counting

Cardinals and ordinals - Hebrew grammatical rules

Cardinals have masculine and feminine, absolute and construct forms. Ordinals have just masculine and feminine. The rules for applying these are fairly elaborate:

  1. Cardinals:
    • One is classified as an adjective: it follows the noun and agrees with it in gender
    • 2-10 function as an adjective but are classified as nouns. The absolute form may stand either before or after the principal noun: the construct must stand before. There is no clear difference in the usage of absolute and construct and they appear to be used interchangeably
    • 2 agrees in gender with the noun
    • 3-10 take the opposite gender to the noun. There is no known reason for this
    • 2-10 may take pronominal suffixes as nouns do, but only in the construct. This happens most commonly with 2.
  2. Ordinals regularly agree in gender with their noun

Numbers 1-10 are listed in the table below. Cardinals 11-19 are made by combining the appropriate gender combinations of one-ten, two-ten etc. 11-19 agree in gender with their noun, and the noun normally (but not always) takes the plural form. Words which rarely take the plural under these circumstances are ’îysh, yôm, shânâh, nephesh.

20 is given by the plural form of 10, and the digit, for example ‘esrîym ve’echad. The tens values 30-90 are given by the plural forms of 3-9. 100 is mê’âh (always feminine, plural me’ôth). 200 is the dual of 100 (mâ’thayim). 300-900 are given by eg shelôsh me’ôth. 1000 is ’eleph.

Comparative forms - Cardinals

Number + Gender (absolute form)HebrewUgariticAkkadianEgyptian
1 M’exâd’axadištênumw‘
1 F’axat’axatištêtumw‘t
2 Mšenayimtinâmišinâsnw
2 Fšetayimtitâmišittâ 
3 Mšâlôštalâtšalâšumxmt
3 Fšâlôšâhtalâtatšalâštum 
4 M’arba‘’arba‘erbûm or arba’umfdw
4 F’arbâ‘âh’arba‘aterbettum 
5 Mxâmêšxamišxamšumdiw
5 Fxamiššâhxamšatxamištum 
6 Mšêštitšeššumsrsw or sisw
6 Fšiššâhtittatšedištum 
7 Mšeba‘šaba‘sebûmsfx
7 Fšib‘âhšab‘atsebettum 
8 Mšemônehtamânîsamânumxmn
8 Fšemônâhtamânîtsamântum 
9 Mtêš‘tiša‘tišûmpsd
9 Ftiša‘âhtiš‘attišîtum or tešîtum 
10 M‘eser‘ašarešrummd
10 Fasârâh‘ašratešertum 

Notes

Language formalities