As you know, in Polish there are different types of numerals – main, ordinal, collective and others. And what is it like in sign language?

## Numbers in sign language

Of course, there are numerals that we can call main, that is, basic ones: “one”, “two”, “three” and so on. We can also distinguish ordinal numerals, that is – just like in Polish, these are the numerals corresponding to Polish words: “first”, “second”, “third”, etc. There is such a difference between these numerals in Polish and Polish sign language that in Polish sign language the ordinal numerals end with the sign “nine”. Okay, that was a short introduction. Now I would like to tell you now, about something much more interesting. About something that has no equivalent in Polish – about incorporated numerals. What is it?

## Incorporated numerals in Polish Sign Language

An incorporated numeral is a sign that combines information about both a number and a signal. The number is informed by the number of fingers shown, and the design is informed by movement and other parameters. I know it sounds a bit abstract now, but now I’ll show you what it’s all about. See (see in the video), this is the sign that means “2 weeks”, that is, here we have the numeral “two” shown, and combined with the appropriate movement and orientation of the hand we have the sign “two weeks”. Adding a circular movement of the wrist, we have an incorporated numerator with the meaning “in two weeks.” In turn, giving a backward movement, we get the sign “two weeks ago”.

What other designators do incorporated numerals refer to? For example, to months. This is the sign “two months.” Adding a circular movement of the wrist, we get “in two months.” Further, here we have the sign “two years.” This sign already means “in two years.” The backward movement, on the other hand, means “two years ago”. Okay, now let’s change the number to “three”. This is how we sign “three hours”, and by adding a spherical movement of the wrist, we get the sign “in three hours”.

## Hour or price?

An interesting example is the difference between incorporated numerals, denoting a specific hour, and zlotys. Look, this is how we sign “three” – implicitly 3 p.m. But just change the orientation of the hand and we already get the sign “three zlotys.”

## Floors in sign language

What else can incorporated numerals refer to? For example, floors. See, this is how we sign “third floor”. Other examples include “three kilograms”, “three days”. Personally, my favorite example is a set of incorporated numerals telling how many stars a hotel is, take a look – “one-star”, “two-star”, “three-star”, “four-star”, “five-star”, “six-star”.

## One sign – a lot of information

Okay, there was already practice, now we return to the linguist’s view. You have seen that one sign can contain a lot of information. This reveals one of the characteristics of natural languages, namely the quest for economy of language. What does this mean? In other words, we want to convey as much content as possible in the shortest possible time. Why use two or more signs when we can put information about both a sign and a number in one?

From my experience as a hearing person learning PJM as an adult, I can say that this was one of the parts of PJM that caused me a great deal of difficulty. I remember during one class the lecturer showed us a great many of these numerals and… I felt a complete blank in my head, everything was mixed up and it was impossible to master it in a short 90-minute class. I had to devote an afternoon… to learning by heart. It’s like, for example, with declension or conjugation in a foreign language. You just have to learn it by heart. But as you can see for yourself – incorporated numerals contain information about things basic to everyday communication, such as the number of days, months, years, hours and more.

If you want to learn more, I invite you to watch Asia’s videos about incorporated numerals, and you are welcome to take a PJM course at the Deaf Development Center Centrum Rozwoju Głuchych).