Ordinal-Cardinal/Nominal

Yesterday was the end of the Interleague series between the Japanese Central and Pacific League baseball. Had Hiroshima Carp won against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks they would have been at the top of that table. But the loss had meant they were second. This is the meaning of ordinal. Ordinal numbers indicate an order but not size.

As of yesterday Carp were 3 games ahead of Hanshin Tigers. This means that if Carp lost three games and the Tigers win three the two teams would be equal first. This is the meaning cardinal. Cardinal numbers indicate a size but not order. You could be fifth and sixth and the size could still be 3 games difference.

There could be two players with the same name in baseball. So how do we tell the difference between the two? By giving unique identification numbers (or ID). An ID is a unique number to indicate each individual object (or in this case, player). The ordinal and magnitude of the numbers are irrelevant, only that each ID is different from another. When used in this way a number is nominal. It is a label and nothing more. Numbers used as labels are a relatively recent invention. With the advent of databases and such we can keep track of millions, billions or even trillions or objects.

A word can be said to be like a nominal signifier. However, they are different in that a single signifier can have several different but related meanings. Unlike numbers signs need to be used in a sequence or syntax known as a sentence. Thus a word can have more than one meaning (polysemy) according to the sequence.

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