Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/566

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

exist potentially. Probably the latter is almost universally the case.

These forms are developed spontaneously, without suggestion from outside. The possibility of replacing them by a standard form, which could be utilized for performing arithmetical operations, is worthy of consideration; some of the difficulties in the way of standardization have already been indicated (§ 14). The general tendency to prefer an upward direction is important; and our current phraseology suggests that this is the direction which increase is naturally regarded as taking. Thus we speak of counting up to a certain number; and similarly mathematicians speak of high and ascending powers, while engineers speak of high pressure, high speed, high power, &c. This tendency is probably aided by the use of bricks or cubes in elementary number-teaching.

24. Primitive Ideas of Number.—The names of numbers give an idea of the way in which the idea of number has developed. Where civilization is at all advanced, there are usually certain names, the origin of which cannot be traced; but, as we go farther back, these become fewer, and the names are found to be composed on certain systems. The systems are varied, and it is impossible to lay down any absolute laws, but the following seem to be the main conclusions.

(i) Amongst some of the lowest tribes, as (with a few exceptions) amongst animals, the only differentiation is between one and many, or between one, two and many, or between one, two, three and many. As it becomes necessary to use higher but still small numbers, they are formed by combinations of one and two, or perhaps of three with one or two. Thus many of the Australasian and South American tribes use only one and two; seven, for instance, would be two two two one.

(ii) Beyond ten, and in many cases beyond five, the names have reference to the use of the fingers, and sometimes of the toes, for counting; and the scale may be quinary, denary or vigesimal, according as one hand, the pair of hands, or the hands and feet, are taken as the new unit. Five may be signified by the word for hand; and either ten or twenty by the word for man. Or the words signifying these numbers may have reference to the completion of some act of counting. Between five and ten; or beyond ten, the names may be due to combinations, e.g. 16 may be 10 + 5 + 1; or they may be the actual names of the fingers last counted.

(iii) There are a few, but only a few, cases in which the number 6 or 8 is named as twice 3 or twice 4; and there are also a few cases in which 7, 8 and 9 are named as 6 + 1, 6 + 2 and 6 + 3. In the large majority of cases the numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 are 5 + 1, 5 + 2, 5 + 3 and 5 + 4, being named either directly from their composition in this way or as the fingers on the second hand.

(iv) There is a certain tendency to name 4, 9, 14 and 19 as being one short of 5, 10, 15 and 20 respectively; the principle being thus the same as that of the Roman IV, IX, &c. It is possible that at an early stage the number of the fingers on one hand or on the two hands together was only thought of vaguely as a large number in comparison with 2 or 3, and that the number did not attain definiteness until it was linked up with the smaller by insertion of the intermediate ones; and the linking up might take place in both directions.

(v) In a few cases the names of certain small numbers are the names of objects which present these numbers in some conspicuous way. Thus the word used by the Abipones to denote 5 was the name of a certain hide of five colours. It has been suggested that names of this kind may have been the origin of the numeral words of different races; but it is improbable that direct visual perception would lead to a name for a number unless a name based on a process of counting had previously been given to it.

25. Growth of the Number-Concept.—The general principle that the development of the individual follows the development of the race holds good to a certain extent in the case of the number-concept, but it is modified by the existence of language dealing with concepts which are beyond the reach of the child, and also, of course, by the direct attempts at instruction. One result is the formation of a number-series as a mere succession of names without any corresponding ideas of number; the series not being necessarily correct.

When numbering begins, the names of the successive numbers are attached to the individual objects; thus the numbers are originally ordinal, not cardinal.

The conception of number as cardinal, i.e. as something belonging to a group of objects as a whole, is a comparatively late one, and does not arise until the idea of a whole consisting of its parts has been formed. This is the quantitative aspect of number.

The development from the name-series to the quantitative conception is aided by the numbering of material objects and the performance of elementary processes of comparison, addition, &c., with them. It may also be aided, to a certain extent, by the tendency to find rhythms in sequences of sounds. This tendency is common in adults as well as in children; the strokes of a clock may, for instance, be grouped into fours, and thus eleven is represented as two fours and three. Finger-counting is of course natural to children, and leads to grouping into fives, and ultimately to an understanding of the denary system of notation.

1911 Britannica - Arithmetic3.png

Fig. 1.

26. Representation of Geometrical Magnitude by Number.—The application of arithmetical methods to geometrical measurement presents some difficulty. In reality there is a transition from a cardinal to an ordinal system, but to an ordinal system which does not agree with the original ordinal system from which the cardinal system was derived. To see this, we may represent ordinal numbers by the ordinary numerals 1, 2, 3, ... and cardinal numbers by the Roman I, II, III, ... Then in the earliest stage each object counted is indivisible; either we are counting it as a whole, or we are not counting it at all. The symbols 1, 2, 3, ... then refer to the individual objects, as in fig. 1; this is the primary ordinal stage. Figs. 2 and 3 represent the cardinal stage; fig. 2 showing how the I, II, III, ... denote the successively larger groups of objects, while fig. 3 shows how the name II of the whole is determined by the name 2 of the last one counted.

1911 Britannica - Arithmetic4.png

Fig. 2.

1911 Britannica - Arithmetic5.png

Fig. 3.

When now we pass to geometrical measurement, each “one” is a thing which is itself divisible, and it cannot be said that at any moment we are counting it; it is only when one is completed that we can count it. The names 1, 2, 3, ... for the individual objects cease to have an intelligible meaning, and measurement is effected by the cardinal numbers I, II, III, ..., as in fig. 4. These cardinal numbers have now, however, come to denote individual points in the line of measurement, i.e. the points of separation of the individual units of length. The point III in fig. 4 does not include the point II in the same way that the number III includes the number II in fig. 2, and the points must therefore be denoted by the ordinal numbers 1, 2, 3, ... as in fig. 5, the zero 0 falling into its natural place immediately before the commencement of the first unit.

1911 Britannica - Arithmetic6.png

Fig. 4.

1911 Britannica - Arithmetic7.png

Fig. 5.

Thus, while arithmetical numbering refers to units, geometrical numbering does not refer to units but to the intervals between units.

III. Arithmetic of Integral Numbers

(i.) Preliminary

27. Equality and Identity.—There is a certain difference between the use of words referring to equality and identity in