The two untold stories of the universal numeral system
Speech is said to be one of the main discoveries that
changed history. Writing is another, whether involving numeral or alphabetical
shapes, and both were essential tools for the creation of civilisations and the
recording of history.
The reader of the pages of this website will find many
extracts from the Origin of the Arabic Numerals
as well as to a substantial number of tables, charts and illustrations
supporting the topics discussed in the book particularly a large number of hand
and finger numeral formations using both the eastern and western numeral
pictograms. A number of PowerPoint and PDF presentations covering various
aspects of Arabic cipher system and its numerals are now available to download
free of charge.
We expect this websites to remain ‘under construction’ for a long time. The main
reason is that the continuous analysis of the original roots of ancient Arabic
and the work aiming to reconstruct the grammatical structure and vocabulary of
that most ancient of continuously used language will provide new surprises
almost at every turn. For this reason, the origin of the Arabic numerals system
has become a modest part in the first part of The Book of Origins which
was launched in London in November 2010. It is unsafe to suggest a timetable for
the publication of the next three parts but a very rough estimate is 4-5 years.
The preparation of English versions of the four parts of The Book of Origins in
English will be a major undertaking hence the decision to involve a select
number of researchers in this project.
Interesting discoveries whether already made or expected along the long road of
research will be made available to readers of this site. Patience is required
but it must be realised that most of our research is original and extends to
pre-historical times. Along with archaeology, carbon-dating, genealogy,
palaeontology and other scientific branches dedicated to the study of human
beings and their civilisation, we will be providing supporting evidence based on
analysing the human concepts, situations, environment and cultural, innovative
and scientific achievements of our ancestors as expressed by the
all-comprehensive original linguistic roots of ancient Arabic.
Lastly, an important clarification has to be made. In the Origin of the
Arabic Numerals we have used the terms ‘Ursemitisch’ and ‘Proto-Semitic’ to describe the ancient mother of
Arabic. If either term is meant to describe an ancient tongue that can be viewed
as the linguistic mother of some 70 languages that include Arabic, then we have
made no mistake in the book provided it is stripped from its possible religious
undertones. Otherwise, let us apologize now for inadvertently making a mistake.
How to prove the Arabian origination
of the Arabic numeral system in 5 illustrations
Having analyzed more than 50% of bi-consonantal roots of Arabic, we are
certain that Arabic is not a mere descendent of the ancient tongue – it is the
ancient tongue or ancient Arabic. Let’s say for now that ancient Arabic is
basically a natural language. Tens of original roots can be described as
onomatopoeic. They are not the ‘tic-tock’ type. These are essential roots from
which tri-consonantals were coined to express situational linguistic cases such
as ‘fly’, ‘drag’, ‘chase’, ‘flee’, ‘fall down’, etc. There lies the most
important characteristic of ancient Arabic – the roots are simple words but all
comprehensive linguistic cases banded together to produce another unique feature
of ancient Arabic – The Linguistic Units.
Nevertheless, tribes living in the Arabian Peninsula prior to the
middle agrarian era didn’t describe themselves as ‘Arabs’. It is a relatively
new term. We feel more comfortable in describe ancient Arabic as ancient Arabian
in the same way we describe those living in Europe as ‘Europeans’ and their
tongues as ‘European tongues’. Arabs do speak Arabic but it is a clear
anachronism to say that ancient Arabians were Arabs. The bi-consonantal root of
‘Arab’ means a large number of people. It was a by-product of an era of
abundance that changed the world – the agricultural era.
How do we know that for certain?
We don’t for certain.
Let's say that we, humans, are not certain of any of the biggest
existentialist and religious issues that dominate our thinking and
beliefs. Let's also add that we have doubts whether many of these big issues can be ever proven conclusively and without any doubt. However, what we know for
certain as far as our original question is concerned is that another word for camel is derived from the same root. We have a
rough idea of when Arabs began to domesticate camels for trade.
How do we know
Because the word ‘camel’ (جمل)
is not a tri-consonantal root as every one believes. It is a type of compound that
means ‘the thing that can be loaded with a great deal of things’. We are hopeful
that we will at one stage identify a tri-consonantal that can be considered as a ‘root’. We haven’t
yet. Arabic tri-consonantals considered by every scholar and his uncle as roots
are not roots at all but derivatives from bi-consonantals. The implications can
be phenomenal enabling us to reconstruct the history of modern human beings,
their culture, civilization and many aspects of their daily life.
agricultural era was the main cause for a linguistic revolution created to
generate sufficient words to express all things agricultural and for which
several hundred words were needed. No doubt, bi-consonantals were still used
extensively at the time, as they are today, but the bulk of bi-consonantals
belong to the hunting era. Let’s then ask ourselves in what era did ancient
Arabians used mono-consonantal words. Or maybe we should ask ourselves instead
in what geographical area they spoke that mono-consonantal language.
It does look as though etymology can be history at least as far as
ancient Arabian is concerned. There can be two narratives of history or even
three or ten but only one chronicle - one correct chronicle. We are now certain
that such a chronicle exists in the original concepts and ideas embodied in
bi-consonantal roots. Human beings can lie and they do but words cannot. Even
the word 'lie' does not pretended to be anything but an expression of a
lie. Not all events and concepts can be reconstructed etymologically. We have
found many ways that can help us identify missing roots and reconstruct the
linguistic units they belong to. Nevertheless there will exist misreading, misunderstanding and misinterpretation but many of the records
provided by etymology can be viewed as crystallized truth. Compared to the
mountains of lies and re-worked facts found usually in what we call 'history'
books, the etymological history of modern human beings appear to be unadulterated facts.
Lying is an advanced human concept. Truth is even more so. The word 'correct' (صح)
in ancient Arabic was a concept derived from simple addition and subtraction
using pebbles. The root 'lie' comes from a situation akin to walking on soft
ground. It will take some
time to re-build pre-historic dictionaries but in many aspects and spheres, we
are confident that at the end of all the work ahead we will have a history we can
teach our children with confidence.
A great deal of
pulping lies ahead before our minds can be cleansed of the rubbish we store
inside. After that we may begin to understand ourselves and the world around us
sensibly. We may begin to view ourselves as one family - a family of human
beings who discovered at the dawn of their history that the odds against them were
stacked high but they did survive and flourished. Their fears were natural but
awesome and persistent. The word 'miracle' is the daughter of weakness. It was
simply a wish. But we owe our existence today not the wish but to the
determination of turning that wish into reality.
Karl Menninger, Number Words and Number Symbols, 1992.
Philosophic Etymology, or Rational Grammar, (1816), pp. 24-25.