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Weird Integer Progression in Language Whose Name I Failed to Catch

  1. Nov 23, 2011 #1
    Right now I'm watching a US Public Broadcasting Corporation television program entitled: "The Linguists", in which a man (I think he was from Africa, but I'm not even certain of that, as I wasn't even listening until the math stuff surfaced), explaiined his integer progression, which was quite remarkable.

    The point is, he kept switching bases the higher he counted!

    He counted up to twelve in base twelve, such that thirteen was "twelve-plus-one", and nineteen was "twelve-plus-seven", but twenty was twenty. Thirty-one was "twenty-plus-eleven", but thirty-two was "twenty-plus-twelve", and thirty-one was "twenty-plus-twelve-plus-one". Getting up to ninety-six, we have "four-twenties-plus-twelve-plus-four".

    I can definitely appreciate the logic behind this, as with twelve as a base, you can make all of your major fractions with integers (so that one-third of twelve isn't three-point-three-with-a-line-over-the-three-to-the-right-of the-decimal-point, but the integer four). Expand that to base 60 (like our Babylonian-based hour/degree-minute-second system of telling time and direction), and you can divide by two, three, four, five, six, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty, and thirty.

    But, why does this language use base twelve for fine-tuning, and base twenty for gross-tuning?

    Very unusual, but I sense something deeper and VERY important going on here.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2011 #2


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    Upon searching via Google, I found that the man was from India, and it is the Sora language which has a combined base 12 and base 20 system.

    Personally, I think we should use the hexadecimal system (base 16), with most of us being in the digital age and all. :biggrin:
  4. Nov 23, 2011 #3
    With base 16, all you can do is divide by two and exponentials of two. You can't make your major fractions, such as thirds, or fifths, like you can with the Babylonian system, or, to a more limited extent, with his Sora system.

    By the way, isn't binary simply hexadecimalism reduced to her ultimate "2 X 2 X 2 X 2" conclusion?

    After all, there are only 10 kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don't!

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