An anthropology professor writes
'Anumeric' People: When Languages Have No Words for Numbers ...
Cultures without numbers, or with only one or two precise numbers, include the Munduruku and Pirahã in Amazonia. Researchers have also studied some adults in Nicaragua who were never taught number words.
Without numbers, healthy human adults struggle to precisely differentiate and recall quantities as low as four. In an experiment, a researcher will place nuts into a can one at a time, then remove them one by one. The person watching is asked to signal when all the nuts have been removed. Responses suggest that anumeric people have some trouble keeping track of how many nuts remain in the can, even if there are only four or five in total.
This and many other experiments have converged upon a simple conclusion: When people do not have number words, they struggle to make quantitative distinctions that probably seem natural to someone like you or me. While only a small portion of the world's languages are anumeric or nearly anumeric, they demonstrate that number words are not a human universal.
It is worth stressing that these anumeric people are cognitively normal, well-adapted to the environs they have dominated for centuries.
No, these anumeric people are not cognitively normal. They lack the ability for elementary mental functions.
Cultures without numbers also offer insight into the cognitive influence of particular numeric traditions. Consider what time it is. Your day is ruled by minutes and seconds, but these entities are not real in any physical sense and are nonexistent to numberless people.
I disagree again. Time is as real as distance or mass or anything else.
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