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In English speech, we say the year 1992 not as "one thousand nine hundred ninety-two" but "nineteen ninety-two": five syllables rather than nine.

Has a convention like that evolved for Latin? (It's certainly had enough time!) "Mille nongenti nonaginta duo" is eleven syllables and tempus pecunia est!

  • Are you looking for modern Latin conventions? A Roman certainly would not have thought to make 1992 = 19 + 92, as it would have been written MCMXCII, with little room for redivision. – C. M. Weimer May 12 '17 at 14:01
  • @C.M.Weimer Yes, a modern convention—though any old precedents would be good to learn about in an answer. Interesting point about Roman numerals. Indeed I'm thinking of a world dominated by Arabic numerals, but Arabic numerals don't necessarily have to inspire the convention. Even counting years ab urbe condita must have gotten to be a mouthful before Romulus Augustulus. – Ben Kovitz May 12 '17 at 14:46
  • Does omitting part of the number count? (As in ninenty-two or novecento) – Rafael May 12 '17 at 14:56
  • @Rafael Whatever the custom is, I'd like to hear about it. – Ben Kovitz May 12 '17 at 14:58
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    @C.M.Weimer Thinking about it, I agree with your point. To take the phone number example: many European numbers are split into two digits and thus are "spoken" that way, even if they have the same amount of digits. I guess it's a separate, strange point how you could have a writing system that diverges so much from the spoken system: the Arabic system almost seems necessary to me, but that is probably cultural prejudice. – brianpck May 12 '17 at 16:24
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I found a 15th century Medieval inscription that abbreviates to the last two numbers of the year (cf. "Summer of '69"):

HIC IACET DOMINUS WILELMUS MEDELEY ABBAS HUIUS MONASTERII XII QUI OBIIT XII DIE MENSIS DECEMBRIS ANNO [DOMINI MILLESIMO QUADRINGENTESIMO] SEPTUAGESIMO TERCIO CUIUS ANIME PROPICIETUR DEUS AMEN.

Loose translation:

Here lies the Sir William Medeley, the 12th abbot of this monastery, who died on the 12th day of the month of December in the year '73. May God look kindly on his soul.

Otherwise, I have been unable to find a consistent abbreviation.

This should not strike us as a gross omission. Obviously, the Romans never had to speak about years like this. English is actually fairly unique when it truncates a 4-digit year into 2 2-digit numbers. Consider 1999 (I'll exclude the word for "year"):

  • English: nineteen ninety-nine (5 syllables!)
  • French: mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (8) or dix-neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (8)
  • German: neunzehnhundert[-]neunundneunzig (8) or neunzehnneunundneunzig (6--"more colloquial")
  • Spanish: mil novecientos noventa y nueve (10 syllables with Synalephas)
  • Italian: millenovecento novantanove (11)
  • Latin: [anno Domini] millesimo nongentesimo nonagesimo nono (16)

So sure, it's longer, but we're not talking about orders of magnitude.

As further evidence, both the Vatican and Nuntii Latini have many examples of the full form without any attempt to shorten.

It is difficult to prove a negative (so I am happy to be contradicted!), but I think I can venture to claim that there is no commonly occurring abbreviation of years in Latin.

  • Are you sure the more-than-nine hundreds work in French and German? I thought it was an English-only feature... – Rafael May 12 '17 at 19:48
  • You can check out the link for German. When I speak French I almost always use the first way, but I've been told (and this site confirms) that the second is also readily understood. – brianpck May 12 '17 at 19:52
  • Wow! BTW in Spanish you can say mil nueve noventa y nueve. It is NOT common to all the Spanish-speaking world, though, and it's informal, but it works. – Rafael May 12 '17 at 19:54
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    @blage "fairly" unique, though based on Dutch perhaps it's more "unique" to Germanic languages. – brianpck May 12 '17 at 20:18
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    Note that English uses cardinals and Latin uses ordinals for years. Mille nongenti nonaginta novem is shorter than millesimus nongentesimus nonagesimus nonus. In Finnish we fortunately use cardinals ("[vuonna] tuhat yhdeksänsataayhdeksänkymmentäyhdeksän") instead of ordinals ("tuhannentena yhdeksäntenäsadantenayhdeksäntenäkymmenentenäyhdeksäntenä vuonna" – very few will agree with me that this is easy to pronounce). – Joonas Ilmavirta May 12 '17 at 20:42

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