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Numbers are used for exact and approximative estimations. The numbers used in approximative expressions are typically so-called round numbers, such as 10, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 100, 1,000, and such numbers are also very frequent in texts. This article presents evidence that some numbers are rounder than others and discusses how the roundness of a number can be derived from its contents of the base number of the numeral system of the culture. A formula for deriving the roundness of a number is suggested, and some evidence that intuitions about roundness vary between vigesimal and decimal cultures as predicted by the formula is given.
Language in Society © 1988 Cambridge University Press