Saturday, March 29, 2014

"第几" has no English equivalent: a follow-up

In August, 2012, I blogged that "第几" has no English equivalent. (If you haven't already read it, you may want to take a quick look first, but ignore my explanation based on presence or absence of measure words (量词) in a language.) Now I'd like to expand this topic to include other languages and so posted a discussion at how-to-learn-any-language.com. Based on the responses, I place languages into three groups according to their capability to ask about the ordinal number of an item in a series. (Words in parentheses are the words or phrases equivalent to the Chinese "第几". Hyperlinks point to other people's discussions. Words in brackets are my comments.)

Group 1: a single word serves as the question word

Chinese (第几)
Dutch (Hoeveelste)
Esperanto (Kioma)
Finnish (manieth)
French (combientième, quantième) [The poster says quantième is very formal and rarely used.]
German (wievielte)
Japanese (何番目)
Marathi (kitva) [The poster specifically says Hindi probably does not have this word.]
Persian (چندمین)

Group2: a phrase is needed

Russian (какой по счету)
Swedish (vilken ... i ordningen)

Group 3: some logic is needed to deduce the ordinal number, or you ask in a different way, or there's not a general interrogative construct

English
Italian
Spanish [? debated]

2 comments:

Joop Kiefte said...

In Dutch it's Hoeveelste, in Esperanto it's Kioma. I would be hard pressed to find a good way to say that in English indeed...

Yong Huang said...

Thank you, Joop! I added those two to my language Group 1.