French Numerals

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French Numerals
The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 80 to 99. The French word for 80 is quatre-vingts, literally “four twenties”, and the word for 75 is soixante-quinze, literally “sixty-fifteen”. This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton) and Viking influences). This system is comparable to the archaic English use of score, as in “fourscore and seven” (87), or “threescore and ten” (70).

In Old French (during the Middle Ages), all numbers from 30 to 99 could be said in either base 10 or base 20, e.g. vint et doze (twenty and twelve) for 32, dous vinz et diz (two twenties and ten) for 50, uitante for 80, or nonante for 90.[90]

Belgian French, Swiss French, Aostan French[91] and the French used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi are different in this respect. In the French spoken in these places, 70 and 90 are septante and nonante. In Switzerland, depending on the local dialect, 80 can be quatre-vingts (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura) or huitante (Vaud, Valais, Fribourg). Octante had been used in Switzerland in the past, but is now considered archaic,[92] while in the Aosta Valley 80 is huitante.[91] In Belgium and in its former African colonies, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.

French, like most European languages, uses a space to separate thousands[93] where English uses a comma or (more recently) a space. The comma is used in French numbers as a decimal point: 2,5 = deux virgule cinq.

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