Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2016 Fund Drive.


Ask a linguist - Message details


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)

Back to Recent Message