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Comparison of Kazakh, English and Chinese numerals

Comparison of Kazakh, English and Chinese numerals.

Kamolova Nuriza

Al-Farabi Kazakh National University: faculty of Philology and World languages


This paper includes the study about comparison of numerals of Kazakh, English and Chinese languages. The purposes are to find out similarities and differences of numerals in three languages. Comparative-contrastive method of linguistics is used as targeted languages belong to different typological and genealogical language groups. Furthermore, data was collected by conducting interviews. Conclusion of the study is that in three languages, numerals perform the function of determiners and are formed in similar way. Subgroups of numerals are differentiated in three languages variously and in combination with other parts of speech exposure to particular changes. Recommendation for further research is to compare the fractional numbers of these three languages.

Key words: numerals, numeral system, numbers, Kazakh, English, Chinese languages, differences of       ​      numerals, similarities of numeral system


Numerals are symbols which are used to represent numbers. According to Hurford (2001) “A number is a mathematical abstraction; a numeral is a word or phrase expressing a number.”Their functions are as significant as adjectives, adverbs, etc. as numerals perform the functions of determiner by showing the quality and order. Regardless of differences in languages, all of them contain numbers; however there are some differences on their usage. Due to increasing interest for leading foreign languages as English and Chinese among citizens of Kazakhstan, it is crucial to investigate differences and similarities between them. 

​Previous studies have investigated numerals of different languages (Kazakh, English and Chinese) separately and there were plenty researches about comparisons between several languages’ numeral systems. For instance, according to One-Soon (2017) classifiers or measure words are used with Chinese numerals. There were comparisons between numerals of Asian languages and English, however their aim was to evaluate influence of mother tongue on numeracy learning (Cankaya, 2012). Nevertheless, the attempts to identify the resemblances and discrepancy of aforesaid three languages’ numerals are neglected. Thus, the primary aim of this article is to find out the ways of usage numerals in three languages. It is hypothesized that: (1) there are some differences on numerals’ structure, combination with other parts of speech and subdivision; (2) closeness on their formation and functions. 


Comparison between languages was done through comparative-contrastive method, as according to Humboldt, they belong to different typological and genealogical language classes (Akhanov, 2002). In order to check out primary hypothesis that numerals have the same function and form; distinct ways of interacting with other parts of speech, structure and subgroups in Kazakh, English and Chinese languages, research was conducted with mixed-method: comparative-contrastive method and interviewing. Analyses were done at the Territory of Almaty and Kazakh National University named after al-Farabi. 

Research was conducted by interviewing people and the main criteria for selection them was knowledge and ability to speak in three target languages, otherwise, interviewers could not give a valid information about the issue. Furthermore, being a native speaker of one of three languages or using languages as first mother tongue was taken into consideration. This criterion was crucial, because only in this case person is fully familiar with peculiarities of particular language. Data consisted of 5 interviews: two speakers were Chinese, two Kazakh and one was Native American. 

The first step in collecting data was to create interview questions: they must have contained questions about all of the languages or at least two of them and it was asked to support interviewees’ answers with examples. The second stage was to find people who would satisfy criteria and interview them. Each interview lasted between 10-15 minutes and contained mainly five questions, however according to interviewees’ answers; some extra questions were added or omitted. 

Main interview questions:

1. What are the common features of Chinese, Kazakh and English numerals?

2. What are the differences on usage of Chinese, Kazakh and English numerals?

3. How do numerals interact with other parts of speeches in three languages? 

4. What kind of numerals do you know?

5. Comparatively, which two languages have more similarities?


To investigate differences and similarities between Kazakh, English and Chinese languages interview was taken. Figure 1 shows eccentricity of numerals’ contribution in three languages.

Figure – 1.




Numerals are divided into 6 subgroups:







Numerals are divided into 3 subgroups:





Numerals are divided into 3subgroups:

- Basic numbers

- Ordinal numbers

- Advanced numbers

In combination with noun, if the number of particular thing is more than one, any plural endings are added:

5 гүл 

17 оқушы

In combination with noun, if the number of particular thing is more than one, plural endings are added:

5 flowers

17 students

In combination with other parts of speech numerals are followed by measure word:



No plural endings to nouns are added

Numbers are written in Arabic numeral system

1, 2, 5, 7, 168

Numbers are written in Arabic numeral system

1, 2, 5, 7, 168

Numbers are written in Chinese characters

4 (四 sì), 5 (五 wǔ), 6 (六 liù), 7 (七 qī), 8 ( 八 bā), 9 (九 jiǔ) and 10 (十 shí)

All the numbers are used without adding conjunctions:

1589 – мың бес жүз сексен тоғыз


257- екі жүз елу жеті

The conjunction "and" is used before tens:

257 – two hundred and fifty seven


If the number is started with hundred and it does not contain tens, then  conjunction "and" is used before ones:

809 – eight hundred and nine

All the numbers are used without adding conjunctions:

23  - 二十 三 (èr shí sān)


Sometimes numeral measure words are used:

908九百零八jiǔ bǎi líng bā  (as  there is no tens, 十is not pronounced).

Bigger numbers than 10 are formed through adding two/three(up to number) numbers:

158 – жүз елу сегіз

19 – он тоғыз

Bigger numbers than 10 are formed through adding suffixes:

20 – twenty

158 – one hundred fifty eight

19 – nineteen

Bigger numbers than 10 are formed through adding two/three(up to number) numbers:

95  -  九十五(Jiǔ shí wǔ)

100 - 一百(Yì  bǎi)


As results indicated, the only common feature for three languages is its function, which determines the quality and order. However two of them have several coincidences: 

• In Kazakh and English languages ordinal numbers are reached through adding suffixes (-st, -nd, -rd, -th and –ыншы, -інші, -ншы, -нші) while prefix第(dì) is preceded the cardinal number in Chinese language (第 四dì sì – the fourth );

• In Kazakh and Chinese languages numbers bigger than 10 are formed through multiplying and adding methods, whereas suffixes (-teen, -ty) are added to English numerals.

• No suffixes indicating plurality are added in Kazakh and Chinese languages to the nouns when the number is bigger than one, while English language requires plurality suffixes (-s, -es).


The outcomes of investigation assessed to describe that function of numerals in all languages is the same: they demonstrate the quantity and order, which means they play the role of determiners. Even numerals in three languages are formed in the same way; English language has suffixes indicating teens. Suffixes are added to numerals in Kazakh and English languages while Chinese numeral demand prefix. English numerals require conjunction, while other twos do not need. In combination with nouns, plurality suffixes are added to noun in English, whereas in other two languages no suffixes are added. Considerable distinctiveness is that Chinese numerals stipulate measure words after numerals to show quantity. Moreover, it should be mentioned that there are 6 subgroups of Kazakh numerals, as it was claimed by Iskakov (1991) while other two languages’ numerals are divided into 3 conventional groups.


The main purpose of current research was to identify common and distinct peculiarities of Kazakh, Chinese and English numerals by comparing them. The results represent that there is only one general characteristic for all three languages: function of numerals. Formation, division and interaction with other parts of speeches are inequable  in three languages. Outcomes of the research are coincided with the hypothesis, which was predicted on the initial stage. However, fractional numbers were ignored in this study because of interviewees’ responses. Thereafter in order to expand this study, fractions in different languages might be investigated. The contribution of this research is to correlate numeral system of prominent languages throughout the world with Kazakh language and make it easier for learners of these languages. 


Akhanov, K. (2002). Til bilimining negizderi (4th ed.). Tilderding klassificasiyasy. Almaty.

Cankaya, O., LeFevre ,J., Sowinski, C. (2012). The Influences of Different Number Languages on Numeracy Learning. Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, 8, 2-5. 

Hurford, J.R. (2001). Numeral Systems. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 10756-1076.

Iskakov, A. (1991). Kazirgi Kazak Tili (2nd ed.). San esym. Almaty: Ana tili. 

One-Soon, H. (2017). Structure of numerals and classifiers in Chinese. Language and Linguistics, 182 (1), 26-71.

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