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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Subject: Words for Mother
Question:
I am curious why there is a remarkable similarity across different languages in the form of nusery names for parents?e.g.,In Chinese and Navajo ''ma'' corresponds to English ''mama''.
Is it juist a matter of fact on coincident????

Reply:
Hi,
The first consonants that babies produce in most of the world's languages are labial consonants (of which of course /m/ as well as /p/ and /b/); the first vowels produced are posterior ones (produced with the tongue somewhat towards the back of the mouth), the most common one being /a/. Generally, babies tend to produce Consonant+ vowel syllables. If you combine these sounds, what you get is ma-ma, pa-pa, ba-ba, etc. Bingo!
Hope this helps!

Reply From: Robert A Papen     click here to access email
Date: Jan-20-2006
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Words for Mother Nancy J. Frishberg    (Jan-21-2006)
  2. Re: Words for Mother Geoffrey Sampson    (Jan-23-2006)

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