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CHAT: 'mother' [was: Re: The Conlang Instinct]

From:dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Friday, December 3, 1999, 16:35
On Fri, 3 Dec 1999, Grandsire, C.A. wrote:

> Bryan Maloney wrote: > > > > Maim? Maim? My dear fellow, /meim/ is a very SOFT sounding word. Where > > would you put /gIft/ or /gift/? How about the adjectival form of the > > German word "Gift"? It's even softer-sounding. This is more in the > > realm of pop-philology than really examining language. I'm reminded of > > someone in an early linguistics course I took who just WOULD NOT believe > > that "ma" did not mean "mother" in every language on earth, no matter how > > much the Japanese professor tried to explain things... > > I hope this person left linguistics before it was too late. It's not > the right behaviour to have if you want to be a linguist. Yet it's true > that "ma" is a very spreaded way of kindly meaning "mother", even in > unrelated languages. Where does it come from? Areal influence?
Since labials and alveolars are very easy sounds to perceive and articulate, they are among the first acquired. Hence, words for 'mother', 'father', etc will contain labials and alveolars. Clint just weighed in with Finnish and Barry with Tagalog, and both of those forms contain an alveolar. Shoshoni has /pia/ 'mother' (/pii/ in some dialects), and /appi-/ 'father'. Used as a term of address, the diminutive suffix /-ttsi/ is added: /piattsi/ 'Mom!' Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga