Re: [tied] The "Mother" Problem

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 36063
Date: 2005-01-28

On 05-01-28 08:44, Patrick Ryan wrote:

>> [PG] I don't know of any such. But the existence of something like
>> *mama, *mamma, *ama or *amma for 'mom' is almost guaranteed by the
>> general tendencies of baby-talk (not to mention the existence of
>> such items in historically known IE languages). For 'dad' we find
>> words of the same structure but with *t or *p instead of *m.
> I cannot acknowledge any such guarantee. A quick look at the language
> outside of IE around the world will assure even the most casual
> student that every imaginable consonant has been pressed into service
> somewhere to express the idea of 'mother' and 'father'.

Sorry, I didn't express myself clearly. In the case of 'father', I
wanted to say that we frequently find *t and *p _in_ IE, not worldwide.
Indeed, the choice of the consonant seems to be quite arbitrary, so the
fact that it's somewhat restricted within IE may be significant. For
'mother', forms like /mama/ (involving /m/) are probably more common
cross-linguistically than anything else, and the reason for that is
quite obvious: a bilabial gesture is a baby's natural way of signalling
"Gimme the breast". Yes, I know that in Georgian <mama> means 'father',
but it means 'mother' far more often.