The Arabic numerals I am referring to are “1234567890”. I have read that Thai numerals, “๑๒๓๔๕๖๗๘๙๐”, are actually distantly related. Both descend from the numeral system invented by the Phoenicians, which then developed into separate branches.

Is there a flow chart to show how the Thai numerals ended up as such? Why do both systems look so vastly different, when they are supposed to be based on the same “shape” given by the original Phoenician numerals?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Small correction: Thai numerals and Arabic numerals are descendants of the Hindu numeral system, invented in India by about 700 CE. The Phoenician number system is much older. The Phoenicians used letters as numbers for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 200, 300, and so on. Greek numerals and Hebrew numerals are descendants of the Phoenician system. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 21 '20 at 15:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Brahmi numerals, the progenitors of (modern) "Arabic" numerals and the rest, also look very different from them. Each culture adapted the glyphs to what they were more used to scribing, sometimes with total replacement of the original. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Mar 22 '20 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ @conifold are there any basic concepts behind the creation of numerals? I’ve read that some numerals were written based on the number of angles each symbol had (the numeral 3 had 3 angles), though I question the credibility of this assertion. $\endgroup$ – Axel Tong Mar 23 '20 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ You are right to question it, those are late mnemonic devices at best. In the early days alphabetic and acrophonic systems were popular, where letters of the alphabet were used, either in the natural order or by the first letter of the numeral. Romans introduced the idea of repeating strokes that Brahmi inherited, but that breaks off quickly. Wikipedia has a table of how "Arabic" numerals morphed in Europe, but not Thailand. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Mar 23 '20 at 3:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.