Language Pulsations: Turkish loanwords

Photos for Blog 21

Despite centuries of contact between the Ottoman Empire and the West, there are surprisingly few purely Turkish loanwords in English. Why would this be? It turns out that most of the words that came to us from Ottoman lands–kiosk, pilaf, sofa, sherbet, vizier, seraglio, tulip …–were were themselves borrowed into Turkish from Persian and Arabic by Turks. This is mainly because the literary and political tongue of the Ottoman Empire was Osmanlıca, which was essentially Turkic grammar, with Persian vocabulary, written in Arabic script. The story of Arabic and Persian loanwords would be a different story–there could be several posts just covering the dozens of Arabic loanwords in English.

But in the meantime, here are three the words in English I’m aware of that are unequivocally Turkish.

Yogurt
Yogurt is from the Turkish yoğurt, related to the Turkish verb yoğunlaşmak “to condense” and the adjective yoğun “intense.” Yogurt was invented 4000 years ago by Central Asian nomadic trans-pastoralists, probably Turkic, who discovered that milk is more long-lasting, digestible, and nutritious when bacteria was added to it.

Many cultures probably independently discovered this food technology over the millenia, but yogurt is uniquely important in the Turkish diet–in Ottoman days, it was a staple like bread, and today it is a sauce, side dish, or beverage in almost every meal. Yogurt folk histories abound. A co-worker of mine claimed that his ancestor brought yogurt to Poland in powdered form and thereby single-handedly introduced the food to the Western world. Another friend shared a different theory, that Europeans first met the food during the siege of Vienna, where Ottoman armies were consuming it (suspiciously similar to the croissant origination theory).

According to the Ottoman History Podcast–a more reliable source–yogurt as a food source was unknown in the West until the early 20th century. At this time, the Ottoman Empire was splintering and former Ottoman citizens were scattering across the globe. In 1919, the Dannon company was started in Barcelona by a former Ottoman-Jewish doctor, while fleeing Armenians brought yogurt to the US to sell to fellow Armenians as well as to Syrians, Jews, Greeks, and other communities who had emigrated from the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. Although each community had different names for this very ancient food, the one shared term for it was the Turkish one, so this was how it was marketed. Hence, the world now knows this amazing dairy product by its Turkish name.

Horde
“The Mongol hordes are coming! Run for your lives!” While “horde” in English can mean a large group of anything, we often use word in relation to “barbarian” conquerors on horseback. This makes sense, since the word originally came from the Turkic/Mongolic word ordu meaning “camp,” “tent,” or “royal court,” or in modern Turkish, “army.”

From the times of Genghis Khan to the present day, Central Asian nomadic-pastoral peoples have organized themselves in “hordes,” fiercely hierarchical and patriarchal groups often commanded by a strong emperor or leader. Genghis Khan’s sons presided over the Blue Horde, White Horde, and Golden Horde, and there are still hordes in parts of modern-day Kazakhstan. “Horde” probably came to English via Polish, as terrified Slavic peoples constantly feared the wrath of nomadic warriors.

Odalisque
Odalisque is the French form of Turkish odalık, composed of oda “room” and -lık, a suffix expressing the function of a thing. An odalık was a chambermaid, maidservant, or female slave. In the Ottoman harem, the odalık was the lowest-ranking servant and she never offered her services to the sultan. Europeans, however, did not understand the intricacies of the Ottoman court stratification, and simply understood an odalık as a harem concubine. Orientalist interest in these “odalisques” peaked in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as can be seen in famous paintings by Matisse, Renoir, and Ingres.

Turquoise, turkey
Actually, neither “turquoise” nor “turkey” are derived from a Turkish word per se, but both have the word “turk” in them because they refer to Turkey. As I’ve explained in length before, the bird known as “turkey” was introduced to Europe via trading through Ottoman-Turkish domains. Similarly, Venetian traders originally discovered and traded for the jewel turquoise in Turkish lands, so the greenish-blue stone gained the name in French pierre turquoise “Turkish stone,” and a color word was subsequently coined based on the color of the jewel.

Language Pulsations: Turkey Around the World (Repost)

turkey etymology

 

The various names given to this bird [the turkey] in so many languages are…a fascinating commentary on the expansion of world trading and migrations, not only human, that took place at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century. –Olaf Caroe “Why Turkey,” Journal of Asian Affairs, 1970.

Note: this was originally posted last year and, in honor of Thanksgiving, is reposted here with minor edits.

Every year around this time, I get asked the one-million-dollar Thanksgiving question: what is the difference between Turkey (the country) and turkey (the bird)? In the past, my explanations have centered on the fact that the English named the turkey after the Ottoman “Turks,” who first introduced the bird to them. This year, I began to wonder: is English the only language in which the turkey is named after a country? If not, in how many languages is this the case? The answer: English, Turkish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, German, Greek, Hindi, and Urdu all currently or at one point named the bird after a country’s name.

My new question became–why? What is the grander international narrative of the Thanksgiving fowl? As it turns out, tracking the different appellations applied to the meleagris gallopavo perfectly recreate trade routes of the 15th and 16th centuries. To understand the whole story, we have to start with Portuguese. To this day, the Portuguese word for turkey is peru, as in Peru, the South American country (thanks to A.G. for confirming this). In the Journal of Asian Affairs, Olaf Caroe notes that, in Hindi and Urdu of the 14th and 15th centuries, the turkey was also called peru. Why?

We find some reason in the directionality of trade routes in that era. As historian H.B. Paksoy explains (Essays on Central Asia, Carrie, 1999), in 1494 the Pope in Rome forged the Tordesillas treaty, granting a monopoly on commerce originating from the newly discovered North American continent to the Portuguese (as opposed to the Spanish). At the time, Spanish possessions in the New World were collectively labeled Peru. Thus peru, applied to the bird, would suggest merely that it came from Central America.

The Portuguese, using their new trading privileges, brought the turkey from America to Goa, its colony in India. From India, the turkey was traded all over the Eurasian continent, as the names of the turkey in various European languages suggest:

(One major language that is missing here is Spanish. In Spanish turkey is pavo, feminine pava, the Latin word for peacock from which Spanish-speakers do not distinguish the turkey. Yet even this name partakes in the Indian hypothesis, because Spaniards believed that the peacock was an Indian bird.)

Thus, not only did European states originally meet the turkey through their trade with India, but most Europeans thought that the turkey was actually native to India, when in truth it was from “the New World,” the Americas. Essentially, Europeans did not know the difference between the New World and India, due to the widespread misconception that the New World was East Asia. Caroe writes,

The confusion may have arisen from the nearly simultaneous discovery of the Americas and of the Cape [of Good Hope] route to India by Spain and Portugal respectively. … Add to this … that the West Indian islands and the Red Indian take their names from the belief of the early explorers that in the New World they had reached the coasts of India. So the bird, in common with the native tribes of America, got an Indian connotation.

From India, one of the places the turkey was then introduced to was Egypt, a province of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the Turkish word for “turkey” is hındı, meaning “from India” and probably a borrowing from French dinde, a contraction of  poulet de l’Inde, “chicken from India.”

When traders took a breeding stock from Ottoman Egypt–commonly known at the time as “Turkish” Egypt because it was ruled by the Ottomans–to Spain and thence the British Isles, the bird was designated “turkey” in English. Caroe points out that in essence, this word is not really a divergence from the European trend of naming the bird after India: “To the English mind of the sixteenth century, Indian, Moor, and Turk meant much the same” (they were all furreners).

But that was centuries ago, and we’ve come a long way since then. Today’s words for turkey around the world less reflect colonial-era trading routes and more U.S. cultural imperialism. According to various online dictionaries, “turkey” in Hindi, German, Greek, and Danish are borrowings of the English word (टर्की, Türkei, Τουρκία, and Tyrkiet, respectively… although the Dutch word is still kalkoen).

So, when you chow down on your turkey (or vegetarian substitute) you can be newly impressed by the long history and international travels of the bird.

How do you say turkey in other languages and where do those words come from? Let me know in the comments.

Language Pulsations: Independence and Involvement

“No matter what value we place on involvement and independence, and how we express these values, people, like porcupines, are always balancing conflicting needs for both.”

–Deborah Tannen, That’s Not What I Meant

It’s the dead of winter. A group of hedgehogs, shivering in the cold, approach each other in order to share their heat against the cold weather. However, the closer they come to one another, they hurt each other with their sharp quills and must back off.

The hedgehog’s dilemma, articulated by Schopenhauer, explains a basic dynamic in human interaction and society: the constant negotiation of independence and involvement. We want to be included and involved and in human society we simply cannot avoid being interdependent to a certain degree: in other words, we want and at times need the warmth of the hedgehog huddle. At the same time, we want to avoid having our individual autonomy and freedom of choice “punctured” by the sharps spines of dependency. We want Mom to make us dinner, but we don’t want to do the dishes if we don’t want to.

Schopenhauer and others that came after use his fable to illustrate different psychological or social morals: that those with “inner warmth” can avoid the risk of being harmed or imposed upon by others, that the risk of harm by society is an explanation for introversion, etc. The more mundane fact is that, in daily life, we are all inescapably bound by dependencies that we have to constantly negotiate. (Even the Richard Brandts and rich tycoons of the world on their private islands have to use money and abide by laws, which are social constructions based on interdependence.) We use language as a way to navigate this negotiation, but, because we all have different interpretations of the correct balance of independence and involvement, the negotiation doesn’t always go the way we plan. Have you ever had this interaction?

A: “We’d really love for you to come.”
B: “Okay, I’ll come.”
A: “I mean, it would be great to have you, but you don’t have to if you have other things going on.”
B: “Hey, are you trying to get rid of me?”
A: “No!”

Or this one?

B: “Do you need a ride to campus?”
A: “Well, not if it’s an inconvenience.”
B: “So you don’t need a ride?”
A: “Yes, I do, if it’s not a problem!”

Because in Turkey, these kind of interactions happen to me constantly. Like Speaker A, I am constantly endeavoring to maintain, to as high a degree as possible, the independence of the person I’m interacting with. To me, this is the most polite way to interact, and the alternative is impolite and demanding. Why should I impose upon people’s time and generosity when I have no entitlement to it and when taking care of myself is essentially my own responsibility? In Turkey, where group involvement is more highly valued and indeed taken for granted, this often attitude can be interpreted as disinterest or distance: because I am fostering independence, intimacy is decreased.

What are your assumptions about independence and dependence, and how do they affect your language and behavior?

In the next Language Pulsations, I’ll write about an important sociolinguistic manifestation of independence and involvement: politeness theory.

Photo from Buzzfeed story entitled “Orphaned Hedgehogs Think Hairbrush is Mom.”

Language Pulsations: Media Ideologies

(1) “Is this a good time for you?” I asked shortly after he answered the phone. “It’s fine,” he answered, “Though I normally keep phone calls short. For Skype calls I’ll have longer talks, but on the phone, I normally go for 10 or 12 minutes.” “Sounds good,” I responded, briefly wondering to myself, Does he not want to talk to me?

(2) I received an SMS on the bus to work: “I don’t see you as a friend anymore. Goodbye.” I called the writer of the message after work. “What’s the problem?” I asked him. “You didn’t answer my text yesterday.” I sighed. “I don’t answer texts when I’m busy. It’s nothing personal.”

(3) “He broke up with me in a Facebook message,” she sobbed, “Can you believe it?”

(4) An American college student, while backpacking through India, befriends an Indian guy whom he later adds as a Friend on Facebook. The Indian friends him back–then begins to systematically “friend” everyone who has recently posted on the American student’s wall, despite the fact that the individuals the young Indian man was friending were Americans that he would never meet in person.

Unbeknownst to most of us, we don’t only communicate through the content of our messages–we also communicate crucial information through the medium of communication we choose to use. And what a lot of choices we have–landline, cell phone, call, Skype, text message, email, Facebook (private message or wall post), Tweet, blog post, postcard in the mail, handwritten note in a corked bottle dropped into the ocean…

Everyday we navigate this vast sea of communicative choices. But we are not random in the choices we make. Although often unaware of them, we all possess a set of assumptions about how the medium of communication changes how we conduct an interaction or interpret particular words and statements. In example (1) above, the recipient of the call expresses the belief that cellular phones should be used for shorter, concise conversations or exchanges of information, while Skype is appropriate for more extended discourse. I, not sharing his assumption, question his interest in the conversation. In (2) above, I work upon the belief that SMS messages (or text messages) are non-urgent and do not require immediate response, while the speaker believes that unresponsiveness indicates unfriendliness or disinterest. In (3), the speaker assumes that her boyfriend is uncaring because he delivers his message through a text message. In (4), the Americans involved saw the Indian’s Friend requests as mystifying, annoying breaches of privacy, while he saw it as rapport-building and an extension of Facebook’s networking possibilities.

Media ideologies are  the beliefs we have about how different communication mediums should be used and how they structure communication.  “Phones are for short exchanges of information”; “Facebook is for casual interaction”; “Text messages should be answered promptly”; “Only Facebook-friend people you have met in person”‘; these are all examples of overarching media ideologies that structure how we conduct and interpret words and statements we receive mediated through new media.

Importantly, media ideologies are not true or false; there is nothing inherently more “casual” about Facebook than face-t0-face. The beliefs are simply a matter of convention and practice. Therein lies the rub: in her 2010 book The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media, Illana Gershon argues that because new media are so, well, new, people haven’t had time to develop widespread consensus about how to use them. As a result, social dilemmas constantly arise. However, there is an upshot: these social dilemmas are also negotiated and solved socially, creating “idioms of practice” in which entire communities share similar media ideologies. This is very evident when I listen to my 14-year-old sister spin yarns of high school joy and drama: while there are relational conflicts, she and her peers clearly operate in a relative communicative harmony when navigating them.

Until that beautiful sociolinguistic nirvana in which we all unite as one harmonious community of practice, however, we can expect to continue to deal with conflicts resulting from clashing media ideologies. The only solution is meta-communication: conversation in which both sides explicitly describe their assumptions and beliefs. In other words: “Baby, it’s not you, it’s my media ideologies.”

Image from someecards.com.

Note to new readers: Language Pulsations are columns where I reflect on word history, usage, or other items of linguistic interest. Previous installments published here include:

Apology Addendum

In my recent Language Pulsation about the subtle difference between an apology and “saying sorry,” I tried to draw out the idea that “apology” has a connotation of insincerity or defensiveness while “saying sorry” is more genuine and remorseful. Only after I posted the article did I find three examples clearly illustrating my thesis.

1. Geraldo Rivera apologizing for any offense that might have been caused by the “life-saving advice” he dispensed after the murder of Trayvon Martin:

“I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.’” (Source)

Salon staffwriter Mary Elizabeth Williams calls this “the non-apology apology,” or the “back-pedaled apology” and she ends with the mandate “Say you’re sorry. And then shut up.”

Continue reading

Language Pulsations: Apology and Sorry

“Don’t you agree?!”

I looked up, startled out of my homework haze. I was sitting at a guard desk in a campus dormitory, mechanically checking student IDs, when a spunky freshman and her boyfriend addressed me.

“Agree about what?” I asked, surprised.

“That girls like sorry’s better than apologies,” she repeated.

“… Is there a difference?”

“Exactly!” the boyfriend said, obviously vindicated.

“No, there’s a difference!” the freshman from earlier protested. “An apology is, like, you’re apologizing that what you did made me feel bad. Saying sorry is, like, more personal.”

Then the elevator whisked them away, leaving a question hanging in the air: What is the difference between saying “I’m sorry” and “I apologize”?

Continue reading

Language Pulsations: Turkey Around the World

Every year around this time, I get asked the one-million-dollar Thanksgiving question: what is the relationship between Turkey-the-country and turkey-the-bird? In the past, my explanations have centered on the fact that the English named the turkey after the Ottoman “Turks,” who first introduced the bird to them. This year, I began to wonder: is English the only language in which the turkey is named after a country? If not, in how many languages is this the case? More than I ever imagined: English, Turkish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, and, at one point, German, Greek, Hindi, and Urdu.

My new question became–why? What is the grander international story of the humble Thanksgiving bird? As it turns out, tracking the different appellations applied to the meleagris gallopavo perfectly recreate trade routes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Olaf Caroe writes,

The various names given to this bird [the turkey] in so many languages are…a fascinating commentary on the expansion of world trading and migrations, not only human, that took place at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century. (“Why Turkey,” Journal of Asian Affairs, 1970)

To understand the whole story, we have to start with Portuguese. To this day, the Portuguese word for turkey is peru, as in Peru, the South American country (thanks to A.G. for confirming this). Caroe goes on to note that, in Hindi and Urdu of the fifteenth/sixteenth centuries, the turkey was also called peru. Why?

It has to do with the directionality of trade routes in that era. As historian H.B. Paksoy explains (Essays on Central Asia, Carrie, 1999), in 1494 the Pope in Rome forged the Tordesillas treaty, granting a monopoly on commerce originating from the newly discovered North American continent to the Portuguese (as opposed to the Spanish). At the time, Spanish possessions in the New World were collectively labeled Peru. Thus peru, applied to the bird, would suggest merely that it came from Central America.

The Portuguese, using their new trading privileges, brought, among other things, the turkey from Spanish territories in the Americas to Goa, the Portuguese colony in India. From India, the turkey was traded all over the Eurasian continent, as the names of the turkey in various European languages suggest:

One major language that is missing here is Spanish. In Spanish turkey is pavo (feminine pava), the Latin word for peacock from which Spanish-speakers do not distinguish the turkey. Yet Caroe suggests that even this name partakes in the Indian hypothesis, because Spaniards believed that the peacock was an Indian bird.

Thus, not only did European states originally meet the turkey through their trade with India, but most Europeans thought that the turkey was actually native to India, when in truth it was from “the New World,” the Americas. The catch is that Europeans did not know the difference between the New World and India, due to the widespread misconception that the New World was eastern Asia. Caroe writes,

The confusion may have arisen from the nearly simultaneous discovery of the Americas and of the Cape [of Good Hope] route to India by Spain and Portugal respectively. … Add to this … that the West Indian islands and the Red [Native American] Indian take their names from the belief of the early explorers that in the New World they had reached the coasts of India. So the bird, in common with the native tribes of America, got an Indian connotation. [My politically-correct correction]

From India, one of the places the turkey was then introduced to was Egypt, a province of the Ottoman Empire. Thus the Turkish word for “turkey” is hındı, meaning “from India” and probably a borrowing from French dinde, a contraction of  poulet de l’Inde, “chicken from India.”

When traders took a breeding stock from Ottoman Egypt–commonly known at the time as “Turkish” Egypt because the Ottomans were a Turkish dynasty who ruled from Istanbul, Turkey–to Spain and thence the British Isles, the bird was designated “turkey” in English. Caroe points out that in essence, this word is not really a divergence from the European trend of naming the bird after India: “To the English mind of the sixteenth century, Indian, Moor, and Turk meant much the same” (i.e., they were all furreners).

Today’s words for turkey around the world less reflect colonial-era trading routes and more US cultural imperialism. According to Google Translate and Word Reference, “turkey” in Hindi, German, Greek, and Danish are borrowings of the English word (टर्की, Türkei, Τουρκία, and Tyrkiet, respectively… although the Dutch word is still kalkoen).

So, when you chow down on your turkey (or vegetarian substitute) you can be newly impressed by the long history and international travels of the bird.

How do you say turkey in other languages and where do those words come from? Let me know in the comments.

Nacirema and Racs

Below is an excerpt from Horace Miner’s 1956 article “The Body Rituals of the Nacirema.” In the article, he relates the culture, practices, values, and beliefs of a seemingly exotic and strange people. Skim the whole thing, and then continue reading below to find out where this strange and exotic Nacirema live.

Read backwards, Nacirema spells “American.” Instead of describing a far-away and exotic tribe, as readers expect, “The Body Rituals of the Nacirema” describes very “normal” aspects of American life–dental hygiene and medicine– using language like “magical powders” and “medicine men” that frames them in a very abnormal way (source). In this sense, Miner’s article was a satire on anthropological papers about “other” cultures (source) and shows how ethnocentrism can affect how we see a culture (source). You can read the entire piece here.

A similar article is “The Sacred Rac” by Pat Hughes. Like Miner, he uses words such as “sacred,” “tribe,” “rite,” “tribesman,” “temple,” and “ceremonies”–vocabulary we associate with “primitive” cultures–to describe a central part of American lifestyle and culture. He then concludes:

Despite the rac’s high cost of its upkeep, the damage it does to the land, and its habit of destructive rampages, the Asu still regard it as being essential to the survival of their culture.

What is a rac? A car. (And “Asu,” of course, is “USA” backwards). “The Sacred Rac” was meant to show that just as we might think the importance of, say, cows in Indian society is weird and abnormal, others might think the same of the centrality of cars in American society. Such ethnocentric perspectives obscure the fact that both the car in America and the cow in India evolved as responses to different historical social pressures. (Regarding the history of the cow in India, see Marvin Harris’ “India’s Sacred Cow.”)

Both articles help us see how things we take for granted as natural, normal, and necessary, such as cars, can from a different perspective be interpreted as unnatural, exotic, abnormal, and unnecessary. In this sense, both “The Body Rituals of the Nacirema” and “The Sacred Rac” are illustrations of the “sociological imagination”: stepping out of our own culture, trying to look at it through the eyes of an outsider, and recapturing the ability to be astonished by what we normally take for granted (source).

Language Pulsations Poll: Going out vs. Dating

This survey comes out of some surprising conversations I had where I asked others to distinguish between “going out” and “dating.” For me the distinction was a very clear and important one, so I was surprised to find that the more people I asked, the more answers I received, each one different from my personal definitions.

What do you think?

P.S. A note on exclusivity: An activity is “exclusive” if you can only properly engage in it with one person at a time. For example, if dating is exclusive, you can only “date” one person at a time. If dating is non-exclusive, then you can date more than one person at a time.

P.P.S. If you chose the third option (“both connote an exclusive relationship”) what do you call the thing that people do before they decide to formalize their relationship? If you chose the fourth option (“both connote a non-exclusive relationship”) what do you call the thing that girlfriends and boyfriends, in a committed exclusive relationship, do?

Language Pulsations: Ouch (Repost)

What is the first word that comes out when you stub your toe or start banging your head against the desk after six hours of nonstop studying? Is it “ow,” “ouch,” “ay,” or something else?

According to the Online Etymology dictionary, “ouch” derives from the German cry of pain, “autsch.” Since the earliest examples of “ouch” have been found in the U.S., it is likely that the German word was transmitted into English via Pennsylvania German version of “autsch,” which was “outch.” In any case, it is not clear where “autsch” came from—it is a relatively rare word in German—and the OED simply suggests it is “probably imitative” of the sounds that occur naturally when we experience pain.

Continue reading

Language Pulsations: Sketchy (Repost)

“Sketchy…” “Sketch!” “Totally sketchville…” Sketchiness and the judging of things and situations as sketchy is so ubiquitous in teenage and college social culture that I never gave it a second thought. There are so many moments in daily life that beg for the word—Facebook stalking, the cream of mushroom soup at the university cafeteria, Rob Blagojevich, or that guy you met who constantly washes his hands with Clorox wipes. What did we ever do without “sketchy”?
Continue reading

Language Pulsations: Nature

1. An excerpt from Daniel Clowe’s 2010 graphic novel, Wilson.

2. View in a Safeway grocery store

3. In an AP news story entitled “Celebrity Sex-Tape Scandal Grips Indonesia,” Indonesia’s Minister of Education Muhammad Nuh is quoted responding to the question of whether education about sex should be added to the school curriculum. “I may be obsolete, but I don’t see that sex education in schools is needed,” he told reporters. “I believe people will learn about sex naturally.”

4. In Malcolm Gladwell’s article “John Rock’s Error,” the creator of the birth control pill, John Rock, is described as a pious Catholic who thought that “the Pill’s ingredients duplicated what could be found in the body naturally.” He thought that this “naturalness” was theologically significant. Gladwell explains that “Pope Pius XII had sanctioned the rhythm method of Catholics because he deemed it a ‘natural’ method of regulating procreation.”

Continue reading

Language Pulsations: Hindu-Arabic numerals Part II

The figure on the left is counting with Boethian apices; the one on the right uses an additive abacus reckoning system

It was in India that all the crucial numerical ingredients came together to form our numbering system. From here, the decimal place-value system disseminated throughout the Eurasian continent before going on to conquer the world.

Brahmi numerals, 100 AD

The Hindu-Arabic numbers have their origin in India, based on the first nine numerals of Brahmi script, an ancient Indian writing which was probably derived from the Phoenician alphabet. The only numbers in Brahmi writing to have distinct signs were 1-9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, and 1000.  All other numerical signs were derived from these.