Send to

Choose Destination
Cognition. 1992 Apr;43(1):1-29.

Cross-linguistic regularities in the frequency of number words.

Author information

INSERM, CNRS and EHESS, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Paris, France.


We examine the frequency of numerals and ordinals in seven different languages and/or cultures. Many cross-cultural and cross-linguistic patterns are identified. The most striking is a decrease of frequency with numerical magnitude, with local increases for reference numerals such as 10, 12, 15, 20, 50 or 100. Four explanations are considered for this effect: sampling artifacts, notational regularities, environmental biases and psychological limitations on number representations. The psychological explanation, which appeals to a Fechnerian encoding of numerical magnitudes and to the existence of numerical points of reference, accounts for most of the data. Our finding also has practical importance since it reveals the frequent confound of two experimental variables: numerical magnitude and numeral frequency.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center