Japanese words for days of the month are unusually complex among the major East Asian languages. In Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese, such words are simply the regular numerals plus 'day' (or 'number'):

'first (of a month)'

Mandarin 一日 yi ri 'one day', 一號 yi hao 'one number'

Korean 一日 ir il 'one day' (Sino-Korean; the complex native words are less common*)

Vietnamese ngày một 'day one' (with Vietnamese modified-modifier order unlike the other three languages)

They are much simpler than English which has first (unrelated to one) and second (unrelated to two) in addition to derivatives of the regular numerals: third < three, fourth < four, etc.

On the other hand, Japanese has a word for 'first' that has nothing to do with 'one'. The other words below are obviously somehow derived from the native Japanese numerals plus -ka 'day', but the details are obscure to me. MJ = Middle Japanese. OJ = Old Japanese.

Day of the month Current form Earliest known form listed in Iwanami Dictionary of Archaic Words (1990; rev. ed.) Corresponding native numeral Notes
first tsuitachi MJ tuitati (None; hito- < OJ pitə- is 'one') From *tuki-tati 'moon-rise' with irregular -k- loss
second futsuka OJ putuka futa- < OJ puta- Short for *puta-tu-ka? Would -tu- be a genitive connector related to the locative-genitive connector found in compounds like OJ ama-tu-kamɨ 'heaven-'s-god' = 'god in and of heaven', etc.?
third mikka MJ mika mi- mikka < *mitka < *mi-tu-ka with the same *-tu- as in 'second' rather than a direct descendant of MJ mika?
four yokka OJ ?yəka yo- < OJ yokka < *yotka < *yə-tu-ka with the same -tu- as in 'second' rather than a direct descendant of OJ yəka? OJ reading in Iwanami (1990: 1379) may be wrong.
fifth itsuka OJ ?ituka i- ika is 'fifty days', not 'fifth (day)'. itsuka also happens to sound like itsuka 'sometime'. OJ reading in Iwanami (1990: 1379) may be wrong.
sixth muika MJ muyuka mu- What is -yu-? Why not -tu-? For another example of i < yu, cf. ik- < yuk- 'to go'.
seventh nanoka OJ nanuka nana- What is -nu-? Abbreviated from *nana-nu-ka? Modern -no- due to confusion with genitive -no? Why not -tu-?
eighth youka prewar spelling yauka (not in Iwanami?) ya- From *ya-tu-ka? But such *-t-loss would be unusual, possibly even sui generis.
ninth kokonoka MJ kokonuka kokono- < OJ kəkənə- Was this originally *kəkənə-nu-ka? Why not -tu-?
tenth tooka OJ təwoka too < OJ təwo < ?*təwə The only simple word in this group! Why not -tu-?
twentieth hatsuka MJ fatuka hata < MJ fata < *pata Short for *pata-tu-ka?

Japanese words for other days are combinations of Sino-Japanese numerals with the Sino-Japanese suffix for 'day': e.g., 'eleventh' is 十一日 juu.ichi-nichi 'ten.one-day', not too-tsuitachi 'ten-first'.

*2.13.1:01: There are complex native Korean words for the days of the month: e.g., 하룻날 haru.n-nal which is not easily derived from 하나 hana 'one'. (-n- < -s- is a native genitive suffix and nal is the native words for 'day'.) However, these words are less common than their Sino-Korean equivalents: e.g., SK 10일 shibil 'tenth' has 23.8 million hits in Google but native 10날 yŏrhŭl-nal 'tenth'has only 42,800 hits. Martin (1992: 186) wrote,

For 21-31 the native forms are uncommon. They are usually replaced by the Chinese [i.e, Sino-Korean] forms, and that may account for the unexplained choice by my sources of sumu or sumul [native forms for 'twenty'; sŭmu and sŭmul in the romanization used here] in a given expression. In dialects more comfortable with the older [native] forms the choice may be better motivated.

In Martin (1992: 185), '21st', '25th', and '26th' have sŭmul but the other 2X day words have sŭmu. In Google, 스무하루 sŭmu haru '21 days/21st' has 10,200 hits but 스물하루 sŭmul haru, the form listed in Martin (1992), has only 3,560 hits. I'll look at these native Korean words in depth next time. FRONT, MIDDLE, BEHIND = FIRST, SECOND, THIRD

The Ponam language from my last entry has no native ordinal numbers:

A sequence of three is described as “front, middle and behind” (maran, hakeo and ken). A sequence of more than three is described as “front, the one after that, the one after that ... and behind” (maran, kaliwin aran, kaliwin aran ... and ken). Now most people use the English terms “second”, “third”, “fourth” and so on, to express ordinal relationships in circumstances where the Ponam terms would be cumbersome.

This reminds me of sets of words used for two or three parts of a work in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese:

Sinograph Literal meaning Mandarin Japanese Korean Vietnamese
first of two of three 'top' shang jou sang thượng
second of three 'middle' zhong chuu chung trung
second of two or third of three 'bottom' xia ge ha hạ

For example, a first volume of two or three would be a

上卷 'top volume'

Md shangjuan

Jpn joukan

Kor 상권 sanggwŏn

Viet thượng quyển or 卷上 quyển thượng ̣(with native Viet noun-adjective order)

Even more parallel to the Ponam terms maran 'front', hakeo 'middle', and ken 'behind' are the terms

Sinograph Literal meaning Mandarin Japanese Korean
first of two 前篇 'front piece of writing' qianpian zenpen 전편 chŏnphyŏn
second of three (only in Jpn, Kor) 中篇 'middle piece of writing' (zhongpian; see below) chuuhen 중편 chungphyŏn
second of two (or also third of three in Jpn, Kor) 後篇 'back piece of writing' houpian kouhen 후편 huphyŏn

Jpn p- was retained after -n (zenpen, not zenhen) but reduced to h- in kouhen (not koupen).

The theoretical Vietnamese equivalents for the first and last terms are tiền thiên and hậu thiên, but I don't know if they really exist.

In all four languages, 中篇 'middle piece' (Viet trung thiên) describes medium-length works (e.g., a novelette) and contrasts with 短篇 'short piece' (e.g,, a short story) and 長篇 'long piece' (e.g., a novel). 4 = 40 = 400 = 4000

In my last entry, I quoted The Iwanami Dictionary of Archaic Words (rev. ed., 1990: 81):

i 'five' and i- 'fifty' were originally the same word [in Japanese]. This is similar to how 'four' and 'forty' are expressed with the same word in Polynesian languages, etc.

I had never heard of any specific non-Japanese example of this phenomenon. Thanks to Andrew West for finding this article on the Ponam language in which 'four' can be 'forty' - and 'four hundred' and 'four thousand'!

[...] in ordinary speech Ponams tend to abbreviate numbers much as English speakers do. They abbreviate by mentioning only the number of the relevant powers of ten. Thus, the word si (one) may refer to the quantities one, ten, one hundred, or one thousand, and the word faf (four) may refer to the quantities four, forty, four hundred or four thousand. By extension si ne faf (one and four) may refer to the quantities fourteen, one hundred and forty or one thousand four hundred. A large number with a digit in each place (to use the English conceptualisation) such as 1,246, could be spoken of as si ne luof ne faf ne wonof [one and two and four and six], but this is very unlikely. Circumstances which require the use of large precise numbers usually require them to be fully stated as well.

Often Ponam speakers both round and abbreviate their numbers. Thus, 1,246 would be spoken of simply as si (one), or si ne luof (one and two). The curious can ask about the homean [remainder] of an abbreviated number just as they can ask about the homean of a full one. If 1,246 is spoken of as si ne luof then its homean would be faf ne wonof (four and six) or fanguf ne wonof (forty-six).

Because Ponam speakers tend to round down their numbers and to use abbreviated forms, a great deal of contextual information is needed to follow any discussion of quantities. The statement “We caught two fish”, can only be interpreted properly by someone who knows how many fish were likely to have been caught. But Ponam is a small community in which information travels rapidly, and confusion is rare.

Note that in Ponam, abbreviation is the norm, whereas it is not and has not been the norm in Japanese. The equivalence of 'five' and 'fifty' has no parallels elsewhere in the system. mi- cannot be 'thirty' as well as 'three', etc.

Native Japanese (modern pronunciation) Meaning Cf.
too < təwo < ?*təwə ten
hata < pata twenty (futa- < puta- 'two')
miso thirty mi- 'three'
yoso < yəso forty yo- < yə- 'four'
i- (only in compounds), iso fifty i- 'five'
muso sixty mu- 'six'
nanaso seventy nana- 'seven'
yaso eighty ya- 'eight'
kokonoso < *kəkənəso ninety kokono- < kəkənə- 'nine'

hata 'twenty' and futa- 'two' only share a second syllable in modern Japanese, but in earlier Japanese, both had initial p-. Is that just a coincidence, or is pata 'twenty' derived from puta- 'two' via a root vowel alternation?

'Thirty' through 'ninety' all end in -so which doesn't sound like too 'ten'. so- can also appear in initial position in compounds: e.g., 十代 so-shiro 'ten shiro (a unit for measuring width of fields)'. The Iwanami Dictionary of Archaic Words (rev. ed., 1990: 753) speculated that so may be related to Korean son 'hand'. Are there languages in which 'ten' is derived from 'hand'? Iwanami offered Ainu wan 'ten' as a possible parallel, glossing it as 'having hands on both sides', but the Max Planck Institute's Numeral Systems of the World's Languages site glosses wan as 'two sides' without any reference to hands.

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