Mama and papa
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The basic kinship terms mama and papa are said to comprise a special case of false cognates. The cross-linguistic similarities between these terms are thought to result from the nature of language acquisition. These words are the first word-like sounds made by babbling babies (babble words), and parents tend to associate the first sound babies make with themselves and to employ them subsequently as part of their baby-talk lexicon. Thus, there is no need to ascribe to common ancestry the similarities of !Kung ba, Aramaic abba, Mandarin Chinese bàba, Persian baba, and French papa (all "father"); or Navajo amá, Mandarin Chinese māma, Swahili mama, Quechua mama, Polish mama, Romanian mama and English "mama" (all "mother").
These terms are built up from speech sounds that are easiest to produce (bilabials like m, p, and b and the open vowel a). However, variants do occur: for example, in Fijian, the word for "mother" is nana, the Mongolian and Turkish word is ana, and in Old Japanese, the word for "mother" was papa. The modern Japanese word for "father," chichi, is from older titi. In Japanese the child's initial mamma is interpreted to mean "food".
In the Proto-Indo-European language, *mā́tēr (modern reconstruction: *méh₂tēr) meant "mother" and *pǝtḗr (modern reconstruction: *ph₂tḗr) meant "father", and átta meant "papa", a nursery word for "father".
European language examples
'Mother' in different languages:
- Dialectal Arabic Mama
- Basque ama (note: Basque is a language isolate, unrelated to the Indo-European languages)
- Bulgarian мама (mama)
- Catalan mamà / mama
- Croatian mama
- Dutch mama / mam
- English mama / momma / mam/mum/mom
- Estonian ema
- Faroese mamma
- Finnish emä (note: The use of "emä" is considered archaic in the meaning "mother of a child". The modern word is "äiti" derived from Gothic "aiþei".)
- French maman
- German Mama
- Greek μαμά (mama)
- Icelandic mamma
- Irish mamaí
- Italian mamma
- Lithuanian mama
- Lombard mader
- Norwegian mamma
- Polish mama
- Portuguese mãe / mamã / mamãe (only in Brazil)
- Romanian mama / mamă
- Russian мама (mama)
- Serbian мама / mama
- Spanish mama / mamá
- Swedish mamma
- Swiss German mami
- Ukrainian мама (mamа)
- Welsh mam
- In Hungarian, which is a Uralic language unrelated to the Indo-European languages, apa means "father" and anya means mother. Which tends to use open vowels such as [ɑ] and [ɐ]. For formal usage, these words are applied, but both mama and papa are used as well, in informal speech. For family internal addressing, apu and anyu (variants of "apa" and "anya", respectively) are also used.
In Russian papa, deda and baba mean "father", "grandfather" and "grandmother" respectively, though the last two can represent baby-talk (baba is also a slang word for "woman", and a folk word for a married woman with a child born). In popular speech tata and tyatya for "dad" were also used until the 20th century.
- Georgian is notable for having its similar words "backwards" compared to other languages: "father" in Georgian is მამა (mama), while "mother" is pronounced as დედა (deda). პაპა papa stands for "grandfather".
South Asian languages
- Though amma and appa are used in Tulu, they are not really Tulu words but used due to the influence of Kannada. The actual words for mother in Tulu is appe pronounced IPA: [ape] and the word for father in Tulu is amme pronounced IPA: [amæ]. Note that the usage of these words is at odds with the usage pattern in other languages (similar to Georgian in that sense).
- In Telugu, amma and naanna are used for mother and father respectively. 'aam aam' is also for food and 'appa' for snacks in baby language.
- In Malayalam "Amma" for mother and "Achan" for father.
- In Tamil, "Thaai" and "Thanthai" are original Tamil words for mother and father; Amma and Appa are common words for mother and father respectively, which are used for addressing them as well (called viLi words).
- In Kannada language "Thaai" for mother and Thande" for father are used. But to address them Kannadigas use amma or Avva or even abbe for mother and appa or anna for father
Among Indo-Aryan languages:
- Hindi has the word mātā as the formal word for "mother", though the shorter informal term ma is more common. Due to English borrowings, the words mamma and pappa are also common.
- Assamese has ma and aai as "mother" and deuta and pitai as "father".
- In Bengali, the words maa ("মা") and baba ("বাবা") are used for "mother" and "father".
- In Konkani language, the words like "amma" or "aayi" for "mother" and "baba" or "aan" for "father" are used.
- In Urdu the word for mother is maa/mɑ̃ː ماں formally and ammi اممی informally, and father is abbajan اببجان formally and abba اببا informally.
- In Sinhalese, the word for mother originally was "mawa"("meniyande") and father was "piya" ("piyanande"). Use of "amma" for mother and "thaththaa" for father is due to influence of other languages. In some areas of Sri Lanka, particularly in the Central Province, Sinhalese use the word "appachchi" for father.
- Nepali aama.
East and Central Asian languages
- Japanese, 父 (chichi) and 母 (haha) for "father" and "mother" respectively. They are the basic words which do not combine with honorifics *papa (modern Japanese /h/ derives from the bilabial fricative [ɸ]) which in turn is from the older *p.) Japanese has also borrowed informal mama and papa along with the native terms.
- Khmer has different words that indicate different levels of respect. They include the intimate mak/meak and pa, the general mai/me and puk, and the formal madaay and ovpuk.
- Korean, 엄마 (eomma) [ʌmma] and 아빠 (appa) is mom and dad in informal language, which is ultimately derived from the formal words, 아버지 (abeoji) and 어머니 (eomeoni) as father and mother.
- Kutenai, (a language isolate of southeastern British Columbia) Ma
- Mandarin Chinese, 父親 (fùqīn) and 母親 (mǔqīn) for "father" and "mother" respectively. However, parents are usually referred to by their children as 爸爸 (bàba) and 媽媽 (māma) — "Dad" and "Mom". And sometimes in informal language, they use bà and mā for short. (Note: The f sound was pronounced bilabially (as with p or b) in older and some other forms of Chinese, thus fu is related to the common "father" word pa.)
- In Vietnamese, mẹ is mother and bố is father. Má and ba or cha respectively in Southern Vietnamese.
- Tibetan, uses amma for mother and appa for father.
- Thai, me3e (long e with glottalized high-low falling tone). and "father" is pho3o (with aspirated /pʰ/). Mama' and papa' are also used in Thai.
- Tagalog, an Austronesian language, mothers can be called ina, and fathers as ama, however nanay for mother and tatay for father is borrowed from Nahuatl, the inay for mother and itay for father is due to mixing of ina, nanay and tatay. Owing to contact with Spanish and English, mamá, papá, ma(m(i)), and dad [dʌd] or dádi are also used.
- Uyghur, a Central Asian language, uses ana or apa for mother, and ata for father.
Very few languages lack labial consonants (this mostly being attested on a family basis, in the Iroquoian and some of the Athabaskan languages), and only Arapaho is known to lack an open vowel /a/. The Tagalog -na-/-ta- mom/dad words parallel the more common ma/pa in nasality/orality of the consonants and identity of place of articulation. However, there is nothing of motherhood or fatherhood inherent in the sounds.