Properties of Lower Numerals and their Explanation
Journal article, 2004

In a recent article (Rutkowski 2003) Paweł Rutkowski argues that the numerals 1-4 are treated specially in their syntax in across languages. Rutkowski wishes to explain this contrast as due to the working memory’s limited capacity, which cognitivists argue is indeed four items. We challenge this claim by presentation typological data to show a decreasing tendency of lower numerals to be more idiosyncratic and that 4 is a soft and arbitrary cut-off point outside Indo-European languages. We therefore argue that frequency, with special attention to cognitive reference points, is a better explanation.

ty pology of numerals


cognitive reference points




Harald Hammarström

University of Gothenburg

Journal of Universal Language

1598-6381 (ISSN)

Vol. 5

Subject Categories

Computer and Information Science