Quiz der Woche: 16 Sprachen


mit/med/with quizmaster Peter Bakker

Quiz: 16 talen: Deadline 25. Februari


med/with/mit quizmaster Peter Bakker

Ugens quiz: Frist mandag 25. Februar, noon


This week’s quiz: 16 languages

Denne uges quiz: 16 sprog

Which 16 languages can you choose from?

Send your answer at the latest February 25 noon to  quiz@lingoblog.dk and win a linguistic book, and join in a lottery about an Ipad.

Hvilke 16 sprog kan du vælge imellem?

Send dit svar senest kl. 12 den 25. Februar, kl. 12,  til : quiz@lingoblog.dk og vind en sprogbog, og vær med i en lotteri om en Ipad.

Last week’s quiz: visual language:  pigs’ ears notching


eight pigs and their ears



We have received answers from Danmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. As many people did an effort to show their solutions, we give the fullest descriptions here.


Cefas van Rossem:

Jaap de Ruig explains is in his book (http://www.jaapderuig.nl/EENDIEREENMENS-JaapdeRuig-compressed.pdf): The ear is dived in four parts. The right ear consists of three possible cur areas: top: 9, under left: 1 and under right: 3. A combination is necessary to get the right number. Nine is ONE cut in the right upper ear. Eight is two cuts in the under left area (2X1) and two in the right side area (2X3), making 8.;It was fun to search for it, but unfortunately the picture was not good enough for deciphering it.

Jacek Kudera, The-Pig-Notcher:

It looks like the upper notch stands for 3 and the lower one for 1.
The right ear of number nine would be three notches in the superior part of pig’s pinna. For visualisation, see the enclosed picture.

Kasper Fyhn:

This is a ternary number system – base 3. If one is familiar with binary numbers, ternary numbers are fairly straightforward.

The 1’s are signified at the “ear flip” and the 3’s on the outer side of the ear tip, both through the number of cuts. Thus, if we say that the first digit from the right is the number of cuts on the ear flip and the second is from the outside of the ear tip, we have:

Ternary Conversion Decimal
01 0*3 + 1*1 1
02 0*3 + 2*1 2
10 1*3 + 0*1 3
11 1*3 + 1*1 4
12 1*3 + 2*1 5
20 2*3 + 0*1 6
21 2*3 + 1*1 7
22 2*3 + 2*1 8


Then, since the third digit would be 3^2 = 9, decimal 9 would be written as 100 (converted as 1*9 + 0*3 + 0*1). However, it cannot be said with safety where exactly that cut would be made, but we can make an educated guess:


If we take a look at the left ear (the pig’s right ear), where we know the number is decimal 161, we can make out that the ear tip must be the largest digit (3^4 = 81) and the places on the upper ear 9’s and 27’s as this is the only way that decimal 161 can be signified: 1*81 + 2*27 + 2*9 + 2*3 + 2*1 = 161. I would think it most logical to go from the head and out on both the lower side and the upper side of the ear, in which case, the 9’s would be the cuts closest to the head on the upper side of the ear. If so, ternary 9 on a pig’s ear would be signified with one cut on the upper side of the ear closest to the head.

Ehm Hjorth Miltersen:


The counting system for the right pig ear is as follows: The lower part of the ear counts ones, the upper part counts threes. The numbers 1-8 work like this:


1 = one lower notch (1)

2 = two lower notches (1+1)

3 = one upper notch (3)

4 = one upper notch + one lower notch (3+1)

5 = one upper notch + two lower notches (3+1+1)

6 = two upper notches (3+3)

7 = two upper notches + one lower notch (3+3+1)

8 = two upper notches + two lower notches (3+3+1+1)


What nine would look like is a good question, because 8 is the limit for system as we’ve seen it work so far, i.e. with a maximum of two notches in both the upper and lower part of the ear. Nine could either be three upper notches (3+3+3), or two upper notches + three lower notches (3+3+1+1+1). But it’s likely the first option with three upper notches, since that more efficiently uses the space available on the ear. A pig usually gets 8-12 piglets per litter, so the space is needed (questions about animal cruelty disregarding). As far as I can tell, you can use the system to count to 13 (four upper notches + one lower notch) before running out of space.


Jakob Kristen Winter Overgaard:


The ear notching system of pigs works like a ternary numeral system. A ternary numeral system has three numbers, 0, 1 and 2. Therefore it is also called a base 3 numbering system. In everyday lives, we use a base 10 numbering system, i.e. having ten numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). If we start counting in a base 10 numbering system, we add a new digit upon reaching the last number, 9, to show that an order of magnitude has been reached.


With 10 being an order of magnitude, if we keep counting, eventually we reach the number 99. Again, we add a new digit to show that another order of magnitude has been reached. Thus 100 is the next order of magnitude. In fact, orders of magnitude are equal to powers of 10:

1 10 100 1000 10000 100000
100 101 102 103 104 105


To write a number in a base 10 numbering system, we must ask ourselves the question, how many times do we have 10 to the power of n, and then how many times do we have 10 to the power of n – 1, all the way down to = 0. As an example, the number 1111 can also be written as the following:

103 + 102 + 101 + 100


Now, writing a number in a base 3 numbering works the same way. If we count in this system, we add a digit after the number 2 to show that an order of magnitude has now been reached. Similarly, we can conclude that orders of magnitude are equal to powers of 3:

1 3 9 27 81 243
30 31 32 33 34 35


To write a number in a base 3 numbering system, we must ask ourselves the question, how many times do we have 3 to the power of n, and then how many times do we have 3 to the power of n – 1, all the way down to n = 0. As an example, the number 40 can also be written as the following:

33 + 32 + 31 + 30


Finally, comparing the base 3 numbering system with the base 10 numbering system we can see the differences:

Base 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Base 3 1 2 10 11 12 20 21 22 100 101


Returning to the pigs, the cutting of the right ear (for the viewer) works like this:

Lower side of the ear Outer side of the ear Upper side of the ear
Order of magnitude 30 31 32


Now knowing how the different areas of the ear represent the different powers of three, we can sum it all up like this:

Pig number Number of cuts in the…:
Upper side of the ear Outer side of the ear Lower side of the ear
161-01 0 0 1
161-02 0 0 2
161-03 0 1 0
161-04 0 1 1
161-05 0 1 2
161-06 0 2 0
161-07 0 2 1
161-08 0 2 2
161-09 1 0 0


Pig number 161-09 is going to have a single cut in the upper area of the right ear (for the viewer)


The impressed jury has deliberated, and decided to give the prize to Jakob Kristen Winter Overgaard for his clear explanation. Congrats! Number nine could in principle be indicated with three notches, but in fact it is indicated with a new location, as guessed by several.

It is indeed a ternary system – a system that, by the way, is not found among the languages of the world, as far as we know. For the left ear (for the viewer) it has a base 3X3 (32) = 9. The whole system, for both ears, is explained here in a peer-reviewed publication:


It is best to do it when the piglet is a few days old. You can buy your ear-notcher here:

The winner gets not only two books on linguistics after his choice, but also (extra!) two boxes of swine broth which I accidentally bought, thinking it was vegetable broth. I don’t eat meat and meat products.

 Ugens quiz før/the earlier quiz

Cefas van Rossem wins the prize for the previous quiz. That was not mentioned last week. This was his answer about the text on the Gypsy monument in Amsterdam, which he found on the net.

Putrav lesko drom angle leste te na inkrav les mai but palpale mura brigasa


Stel hun weg in het nieuwe leven voor hen open en verlos hen van de banden van het verdriet.

And that is, in English, something like: open his road in front of him so that he is no longer bears my grief

WALL OF FAME/Æresgaleri:

quizzens vindere i 2019

Jakob Kristen Winter Overgaard, Aarhus

Cefas van Rossem, Netherlands

Byurakn Ishkhanyan, København/Copenhagen

Jeroen Willemsen, Aarhus

WALL OF FAME/Æresgaleri:

quizzens vindere i 2018

Andrea Siem, Aarhus

Anne Mahler Schmidt, Aarhus

Jacek Kudera, Finland

Iñaki Etxegoyen, Paris

Thomas Nielsen, Varde

Julie Dolleris, Aarhus

Vincent Jørgensen, Aalborg

Johanne Vejrup Nielsen, Aarhus

Tine Hansen, Odense

Jakob Steensig, Aarhus.

P Dhant, ukendt

Timon Holm, Midtjylland; Mandarin phrasebook & en bog for sprogundervisere

Hartmut Haberland, Sjælland.

Hanna Birkelund, Sjælland, en bog med artikler skrevet af AU lingvister og Ole Togeby Stiltræk.

Peter Aagaard Sørensen, Tyskland. Creole Studies – Phylogenetic Approaches & “What is the Romani language?”

Rasmus Puggaard, Aarhus: en lærebog om statistik for psykologer.

Søren Sørensen, Aarhus

Kim Jones, California: Creole Studies – Phylogenetic Approaches.

Ole Hansen,  Aalborg: Anders Lund Madsens ÆØÅ

Thomas Widmann, Scotland: Dholuo without tears. Esperanto Lærebog.

Tracy Skondin, Jutland: Etymological Dictionary of the English Language.

Hartmut Haberland, Zealand: Teach yourself Mandarin. Chinese Dictionary. 

Søren Nørrelund-Madsen, Zealand. ???

Susanne Benjamin, Jutland: Swahili Dictionary. 

Sara Lee; Zealand. ???