The word : Momma

Tiste   Friday, December 10, 2004, 20:45 GMT
Isn't it weird that almost in every language the word " momma " is used? (Asian / African languages are no exception ...)

Momma / Maman / Mama / Mamma /... it's all the same thing !!!!

This must mean this word ( or just the sounds you make to say momma ) is an ancient word , perhaps one of the oldest .

What's your opinion ?
Brennus   Saturday, December 11, 2004, 07:04 GMT
Dear Tiste,

You are very right. 'mama' is even found as far away as South America as the Quechua word for "mother". In many of the world's languages words for "father" are similar to our English words "father" and "dad" even Lakota ate and Quechua tayta. Words like enna, nena and nana often mean something like "sister", mother or grandmother" . English "baby" has similarites in Spanish bebé , Italian bambino, Greek byba "baby girl" / bybis "baby boy" and even Vietnamese êm be.

Some scientists and linguists now suspect that there may be something genetic in humans that causes them to use similar sounding words for these items but more research still needs to be done.

It is believed that speech first arose in humans about 200,000 years ago. Modern humans appeared well after this about 30 to 40,000 years ago and all descend from a common ancestral group that lived somewhere in Africa and may have numbered no more than 3,000 people. Theoretically, modern humans still share enough genes in common that if babies in Africa were saying tata, papa and mama 30 - 40,000 years ago they should still all be saying something similar today regardless of what part of the world they live in now.
Jordi   Saturday, December 11, 2004, 09:39 GMT
Dear Brennus,
Just for your information "nin" and "nina" mean little boy and little girl in Catalan (and also "doll"). You can also hear "nene" and "nena" in Spain, for the same concept. Mother is, obviously "mama"
In local Catalan dialects "ta" or "tata" mean father. "Tete" is brother and "tata" can also mean sister. We say "ma" for "water" to children the same as Arabic does, but say "aigua" to adults (from Latin "acqua"). After all, water is the origin of all life and children are likely to ask for that from the start.
In basque "ayta" (written "aita") means father, very close to your reported Quechua and Lakota "tayta".
I agree in a far-away common origin for these and some other words, which are based in the first vowels and consonants baby speakers tend to learn all over the world. An open "a" as in British "aunt" (from French, "tante" and we have "tata" again) is the easiest and first vowel babies tend to learn and it would seem that "m" "t" and "n" are also a starters' choice for consonants. I'd agree that these words can be traced back to the origin of language.
Joaquin   Saturday, December 11, 2004, 18:02 GMT
"In local Catalan dialects "ta" or "tata" mean father."

That's interesting. In Tagalog, "tatay" is how we address our fathers (although the actual term for father is "ama"). Mother ("ina") is addressed as "nanay", grandfather/grandmother is "lolo/lola", sister is "ate", and brother is "kuya". Aunt and uncle is "tiya" and "tiyo", but those obviously come from Spanish.
Brennus   Saturday, December 11, 2004, 23:18 GMT
Jordi and Joaquin. Thanks for sharing your observations. Even though it hasn't all been unravelled yet a great many words around the world for father, mother, grandfather and grandmother seem to come from a common human proto-language spoken many thousands of years ago.

Isoglosses for "brother" and "sister" are often mutually shared too as in English bother, Russian brat', Persian baradar etc. but these two words are a little more variable. I've noticed in your native language, Catalan, that brother and sister are germà and germana. Classical Latin had frater and soror which left descendents in Italian, French and Romanian but not in the Iberian peninsula. In the late Roman period, an alternative word for brother appeared 'germanus'. It is the ancestor of the Catalan word and also the source of the English word "germane" (related to) as in "That's not germane to the topic we are discussing." . It originally meant "neighbor" or "neighborly" and may be of Gaulish (Celtic) origin. Even St. Jerome who lived in what is now Croatia (Yugoslavia) used it for "brother" in one of his epistles but it was in the Iberian peninsula that it became most popular completely displacing frater and soror. .
Guy   Sunday, December 12, 2004, 05:51 GMT
In Japanese, titi(or chichi, depending on what transcription system you use) for father, haha(traditionally fafa) for mother. baba for grandmother, jiji for grandfather. any idea where they come from?
Brennus   Sunday, December 12, 2004, 07:31 GMT
Dear Guy,

Re: "any idea where they come from?" It's hard to tell. However, haha and fafa could be derived from an older *mama allowing for the law of consonant changes (discovered by Jacob Grimm in the 19th century).

Many colloquial terms for grandmother and grandfather are two syllables in scores of languages worldwide and your Japanese examples certainly fit that pattern. For example, we find NANA and GRANNY in vernacular English and French for "grandmother" and "AITO" for "grandfather in some Spanish dialects. BUBBA is a comon word for "grandmother" in the Slavic languages of eastern Europe... all two syllables.
Jordi   Sunday, December 12, 2004, 07:32 GMT
Dear Brennus,
It didn't totally displace it. It only became syntactically specialised. In the Iberian peninsula "frater" and "soror" became religious terms, therefore of a more classical Latin origin. In Spanish "fray" o "fraile", Catalan "fra" o "frare" (Occitan "fraire" and English "friar"!) and "soror" became "sor" meaning a Catholic "sister" or "nun". Remember the great Spanish nuns and poets "Sor Teresa de Avila" or "Sor Inés de la Cruz."
Anyway, there is an Indo-European link if you analyse "brat" "germanus" and "frater". The backbone of the word is still there and quite easy between proto-germanic and Latin brat/frat (the conssonantic change is easy to explain but a bit long for this thread). and even in the Celtic word the "r" and "a" are still there.
I'm glad we share our love for the origin of language/s.
Jacob   Sunday, December 12, 2004, 21:58 GMT
Don't forget Georgian: mama = father; deda = mother.
Smith   Sunday, December 12, 2004, 22:00 GMT
''Don't forget Georgian: mama = father; deda = mother.''

Shouldn't those be the other way around? ''mama'' looks like it resembles the English ''mother'' related words and ''deda'' looks like it resembles the English ''father'' related words.
Jacob   Sunday, December 12, 2004, 22:10 GMT
It is correct as I posted it.
Smith   Monday, December 13, 2004, 02:18 GMT
How can it be correct when ''mama'' looks like it resembles the English ''mother'' related words and ''deda'' looks like it resembles the English ''father'' related words?
Brennus   Monday, December 13, 2004, 19:16 GMT
Jacob brought up a good point. In Georgian (Which the Georgians call Sakartvalo in their native language) there is a curious reversal of the two isoglosses.

Something similar to this has also happened in Albanian where motër eme (pronounced liked like motor-e:h-me:h ) means "my sister" rather than "my mother" even though in the older language (Illyrian?) it meant "my mother" just as in all the other Indoeuropean languges Greek matir "mother", Latin mater mea, Irish mo mhathair, Russian moya mat', English my mother.
Ed   Monday, December 13, 2004, 20:31 GMT
That Georgian thing is funny! lol
Tiffany   Monday, December 13, 2004, 21:59 GMT
Why is it funny?