Octonary Conception in Central Eurasia: Its Ethnonymic Connection and Numerical Reinterpretation

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

Publication Date



Numeracy with its manifestations in various languages is especially suited to investigation by cognitive anthropologists, because in this field of study a precise knowledge of cognitive response to the quantitative world must be combined with an understanding of many sociocultural factors that influence the levels of numeration reached by individual language speakers, including a collective presentation of ethnic groups. The present study investigates the development of and representation by octonary symbolism and its role in giving rise to the numeral naiman 'eight' in Mongolic languages. By sorting out the various semantic threads in the precursors for 'eight' in astrological terminology I will demonstrate that the Mongolian ethnonym naiman and its Kitan counterpart nimbaga had emerged in the contemporary contexts of collective numerical perception of ethnic groups and then propose a model for the linguistic formation of number eight and its numerical reinterpretation, with each tier of lexicalization being profoundly affected by the astrological praxis, the inventory of which included the Latin notion nimbus 'cloud' as an active element in the course of Mongolic octonary conception.


This article was originally published in Central Asiatic Journal. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Central Asiatic Journal


Central Asiatic Journal © 2007 Harrassowitz Verlag