Swedish Numerals in an International Perspective

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Swedish numerals are here treated from different points of view. The book is however not intended to be a textbook of Swedish numerals, though one may learn a great deal about the system herein - more than the general user of the language knows. Phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics all get their fair share of attention. I am investigating the numeral system as a synchronic whole (and similarly for parts of it), but the historical relations are also studied as long as they contribute to the understanding of the growth of numerals. The old Swedish measurement expressions are included in the description, as are constructions with round numbers.

Swedish numerals are dealt with - but not invariably so. There are many references to other numeral systems, in one way or another contrasting with the Swedish one. These include, naturally, older layers and dialectal variants of the language. Danish, Icelandic, English, French, German and other Indo-European languages are studied, as well as more exotic languages such as Tibetan, Ainu and Malay. The references to other languages are always intended to prove a point or to be illuminative, so that they are no loose garments surrounding an alien body of text. The typological literature in the area is also commented, especially Greenberg's work on numeral systems.

Although this is a book about numerals, it also concerns several new distinctions and typologies of general theoretical importance. One typology has to do with the semantic and morphological connection between two words and is intended as a replacement of the distinction between derivation and inflection. Another typology discerns between various kinds of affinities as regards two classes of word-forms. They may be (phonetically) identical, parallel or asymmetrical. A third typology differentiates various types of <i>designation transitions</i> - these are the possible relations between a word and the words that have emanated from it historically.

The numerals are looked upon as a subset of the language that is worthy of consideration above all because of its unusual features in certain respects. Like all parts of language it derives largely, in meanings and meaning relations with other parts of the system, from the underlying non-linguistic background - in this case mainly mathematics in a very broad sense. Although Swedish numerals is the nominal subject of the present book, the non-reductionist view - using many different tools to let the data speak - should mean a renewal of the field of numeral study as a whole.


  • Magnus Olsson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • synchrony, round numbers, base, vacillation, parallelism, affinity, inflection, derivation, dualism, affix, language change, language planning, dates, number, measurement, typology, homonymy, semantics, syntax, phonology, morphology, designation transition, Scandinavian languages and literature, Nordiska språk (språk och litteratur)
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 May 24
Print ISBNs91-7966-413-X
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1997-05-24 Time: 10:15 Place: Sal Kock External reviewer(s) Name: Andersson, Erik Title: Professor Affiliation: Åbo --- The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Swedish (015011001)