Re: arabic number in bidi algorithm

From: Roozbeh Pournader (
Date: Fri Oct 29 1999 - 07:34:12 EDT

On Thu, 28 Oct 1999, Gregg Reynolds wrote:

> But ask your Arabic teacher - I mean somebody with not only native-speaker
> competence, but with deep expertise in classical grammar - how the Arabs of old
> would have pronounced a number like "1999". The answer you should receive is
> (tranlated literally) "nine and ninety and nine hundred and one thousand".

Alright! But I think there is difference in Arabic language and Arabic
script. There are many other users of the Arabic script who have not heard
even one of these numbers spoken in Arabic.

> I don't question your personal experience - the fact is virtually all modern
> speakers of Arabic read numbers in the European manner (with one small difference
> I'll explain in a minute). By your testimony, and that of a Pakistani colleague
> of mine, this is also the case for Persian and Urdu speakers. But for Arabic, at
> least, this is clearly an artifact of European political and economic hegemony.
> Things may be different among speakers of Indo-european languages using Arabic
> characters - after all, Arabic was itself an imperial language at one point;
> nothing says Arabiform numbers had to be read in Persian the way they were read in
> Arabic.
> I don't think you would have much trouble finding traditionalistic teachers in
> Cairo, Damascus, or Baghdad who teach literary Arabic with numbers spoken least
> significant digit first. I've verified this with a native speaker who has taught
> Arabic at University for many years (I withhold his name to protect the innocent.)

Ok. I agree. But what about putting the latin characters U and V in the
same spot? Historical reasons are important, but not this much.

> And among some at least it
> is physically written in the same order - skip to the left, write "19" moving to
> the right, then skip to the right and write "7" in the ones position then "8" in
> the tens position.

I claim that all natives write it this way.

> difficult part of Arabic grammar, by a large margin.) Wright's Grammar,
> standard in the English speaking world, has some info but it's scattered
> throughout. He states that numbers can be read either way, but most of his
> examples use left-to-right reading. But then Wright was an Englishman translating
> the work of a German at the height of the British Empire. Draw your own
> conclusions.

Would you please add the date of the translation? I have studied Arabic in
the high school, but never heard the LSD first reading.


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