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Numbers beyond words

A Brazilian group may grasp exact quantities without naming them

By
10:41am, June 18, 2008

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do, especially if you don’t even have a word for it. That’s the situation of the Pirahã people, denizens of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest who have no term for the number one or for any other exact quantity, a new study finds.

Until now, researchers have not demonstrated the absence of a way to express the number one in any language, according to a team led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology cognitive scientist Edward Gibson.

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