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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:
The usual answer to this, which seems plausible to me, is that certain syllables tend to be the earliest produced by babies, because of their inherent simplicity of production, and that proud parents have fastened on these as the babies' attempts to address them. So similar words show up as the informal terms for "mummy" and "daddy" all over the world -- sometimes switched round, and not always identical, but with the striking similarities that you have noticed.

Geoffrey Sampson

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

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