Looking through Richardson's (1850) vocabulary of Sokna Berber today, I came across a wonderful little piece of sociolinguistic history. The vocabulary in question was written by a Sokni, Ali ben El-Haj Abd et-Tawil, with English translations added by Richardson. He wrote, among other things, the numerals. 1-3 are Berber (əjjin اجين, sən سن, šaṛəṭ شارط), while 4 is Arabic (أربعة arb`a). But when he reached 5 there was a moment of indecision:
Do you see what's going on there? He started out by writing خمسة xəmsa, the Arabic loanword meaning "five" - which, if other languages of the region are any guide, was the usual word for "five" in everyday Sokni. But then he had a thought - xəmsa is just Arabic, it's not proper Sokni, and I ought to be giving this stranger proper Sokni - and he overwrote the word with فوس fus "hand", used by Berber and Songhay groups through much of the Sahara (eg Siwi fus=hand, Kwarandzyey kəmbi=hand) as a substitute for "five" to prevent Arabic speakers from understanding, as they would if the normal numerals, borrowed from Arabic, were used. What at first sight looks like just a piece of messy handwriting turns out to bear witness to a moment of linguistic purism.
Indeed, the prof was getting (II) and the class was getting (I). I think the trouble was in the fact that the class could kinda see (II), but the prof and the TA were both sure that (I) was impossible and that the class was dead wrong. Then again, it IS in the Philosophy dept and the prof and TA are the sort who'll respond to "Do you want x or y?" with "Yes," so I guess they're not really the ones to ask about this kind of thing... Thanks for the info and for getting this discussion started!
1 hour ago