As Brain Mysteries reports:
An Amazonian language with only 300 speakers has no word to express the concept of "one" or any other specific number, according to a new study from an MIT-led team.
The team, led by MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences Edward Gibson, found that members of the Piraha tribe in remote northwestern Brazil use language to express relative quantities such as "some" and "more," but not precise numbers. . . .
The work builds on a study published in 2004, which found that the Piraha had words to express the quantities "one," "two," and "many."
Terry Pratchett fans Hypatia and Jake get 1 Scribal point apiece and Erin gets 2 for the following:
Hypatia: They count "one, two, many" too. They're also better at it at low temperatures.
Erin: "one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-many-three, LOTS."
Jake: Kinda like base 4 roman numerals.
So the "secret" is they're not as dumb as they look. "One, two, three, many" is just the beginning of a base 4 counting system.