Publication details [#58725]

Berg, Thomas and Marion Neubauer. 2014. From unit-and-ten to ten-before-unit order in the history of English numerals. Language Variation and Change 26 (1) : 21–43.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
Cambridge University Press


This paper discusses the structural change in the English numeral system that needed seven centuries to finalize: the number words from 21 to 99 reversed from the unit-and-ten to the ten-before-unit pattern. Whilst the reordering process impacted the least multiple number words first, the deletion process impacted the most repeated words first. This discrepancy backs the hypothesis that the implication or otherwise of low-level speech aspects defines the frequency role in language change (Phillips, 2006). Finally, the order change is probably a contact-induced symptom and may have been eased by a cutback in mental cost.