A friend of mine asked a speaker if he could say, in his language, how many spears he had. None of the Australian aboriginal languages has any words for numbers other than 1 and 2, so all he could do was list them. He said, “Well, I have a ceremonial spear, a long throwing spear, a shorter throwing spear, a jabbing spear and a broad blade spear.” “That makes five,” my friend said. “If you say so,” he agreed. “If I took one away,” my friend asked, “how many would you have left?” “Well,” he replied, “it depends on which one you took away, doesn’t it?”

— Peter Ladefoged, English-American linguist


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