Mama and papa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Babble word)

In linguistics, mama and papa is the sequences of sounds /ma/, /mama/ and similar ones known to correspond to the word for "mother" and "father" in many languages of the world.

The basic kinship terms mama and papa are said[by whom?] 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.[1][2][3][4] 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"). However, some scientists believe that 'ma' and 'pa' were among the first words that humans spoke.[5]

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. 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.

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".


In languages around the world, the word for "mother" is something like "mama". The cross-linguistic similarities between these terms are thought to result from the nature of language acquisition.[1][2][3][4] These words are the first word-like sounds made by babbling babies, and parents tend to associate the first sound babies make with themselves and to employ them subsequently as part of their baby-talk lexicon.

The linguist Roman Jakobson hypothesized that the nasal sound in "mama" comes from the nasal murmur that babies produce when breastfeeding:

Often the sucking activities of a child are accompanied by a slight nasal murmur, the only phonation which can be produced when the lips are pressed to mother’s breast or to the feeding bottle and the mouth full. Later, this phonatory reaction to nursing is reproduced as an anticipatory signal at the mere sight of food and finally as a manifestation of a desire to eat, or more generally, as an expression of discontent and impatient longing for missing food or absent nurser, and any ungranted wish. When the mouth is free from nutrition, the nasal murmur may be supplied with an oral, particularly labial release; it may also obtain an optional vocalic support.

— Roman Jakobson, Why 'Mama' and 'Papa'?

Examples by language family

'Mama' and 'papa' in different languages:[6][7]

Afro-Asiatic languages

Austroasiatic languages

  • Khmer has different words that indicate different levels of respect. They include the intimate ម៉ាក់ (mak/meak) and ប៉ា (pa), the general ម៉ែ (mai/me) and ពុក (puk), and the formal ម្ដាយ (madaay) and ឪពុក (ovpuk).[8]
  • Vietnamese, mẹ is mother and bố is father. and ba or cha respectively in Southern Vietnamese.

Austronesian languages

  • Tagalog, mothers can be called ina, and fathers ama. Two other words for the same in common use, nanay and tatay, came from Nahuatl by way of Spanish.[9][10][11] Owing to contact with Spanish and English, mamá, papá, ma(m(i)), and dad [dʌd] or dádi are also used.[12]
  • Malay, mother is called emak (mak) or ibu, father is called bapa or ayah.

Constructed languages

Dravidian languages

Dravidian languages, like Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Tulu, all have the words amma and appa.

  • 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, "Thalli" and "Thandri" are used for mother and father in formal Telugu. Amma and naanna are used for mother and father for the informal way. "Nayana" is also used for father in informal Telugu in the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana of India.
  • In Malayalam, "Amma" is used for mother. Hindus use "Achan" (അച്ഛൻ) for father and Christians use "Appan". "Appan" was also previously used by matriarchal Hindu castes to denote the mother's husband who may or may not be the biological father. The word "Achan" is a transformed Malayalam equivalent of the Sanskrit "Arya" for "Sir/Master" (Arya - ajja -> ayya). "Achan" gained almost universal acceptance as the word for father among most Hindus during the 20th century. However, some families and communities also use 'appa' etc. at least within their circles. The Malayalee Christian communities often use a different set of words for father such as chaachchan (ചാച്ചൻ), appachan (അപ്പച്ചൻ) etc. The Muslim communities use vaappa (വാപ്പ), vaappachchi (വാപ്പച്ചി), uppa (ഉപ്പ) etc.
  • In Tamil, "Thaai" and "Thanthai" are the 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 the 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.

Finno-Ugric languages

  • Estonian ema
  • 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.
  • 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".)

Indo-European languages

  • Albanian nena/nëna / mama
  • Assamese has ma and aai as "mother" and deuta and pitai as "father".
  • Bengali, the words maa ("মা") and baba ("বাবা") are used for "mother" and "father".
  • Bulgarian мама (mama)
  • Catalan mamà / mama
  • Croatian mama
  • Czech máma and táta
  • Dutch mama / mam
  • English mam (regional British) /mum (standard Br.Eng) /mom (US) / mama / momma and dad / dada / daddy
  • Faroese mamma
  • French maman
  • Galician nai / "mai"
  • German Mama
  • (Modern) Greek μάνα, μαμά (mana, mama)
  • 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.
  • Icelandic mamma; pabbi
  • Irish mam
  • Italian mamma and papà
  • Konkani language, the words "amma" or "aayi" for "mother" and "baba" or "aan" for "father" are used.
  • Lithuanian mama
  • Lombard mader
  • Maithili language has the word Mami and Papa to refer mother and father respectively Which is borrowed from English and is very popular in Mithila federal state of Nepal and Bihar state of India.
  • Nepali language has the word ama" to refer to mother and "ba" for father.
  • Norwegian mamma
  • Odia bapa is used for father and maa or bou for mother.
  • Old Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit): Mātṛ / Ambā
  • Persian madar مادر is the formal word for mother, whereas ممان or maman is the informal word for mother. pedar پدر is the formal word for father whereas baba or بابا is the informal word for father.
  • Polish mama and tata
  • Portuguese mãe / mamã / mamãe (only in Brazil)
  • Romanian mama / mamă
  • Russian мама (mama) 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.
  • Serbian мама / mama
  • 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.
  • Slovak mama | Tata, also tato
  • Slovene mama / ata, also tata
  • Spanish mama / mamá
  • Swedish mamma and pappa
  • Swiss German mami, but mame in the dialect from Graubünden and mamma in certain dialects from the Canton of Bern
  • Ukrainian мама (mamа)
  • Urdu the words for mother are maa/mɑ̃ː ماں, madar مادر or walida والدہ formally and ammi امی, 'mama' مما informally, whereas father is baap باپ (not used as salutation), pedar' پدر or 'walid' والد formally and baba بابا or abba ابّا or abbu ابّو informally.
  • Urdu Mother and Father are translated as maan, baap.In daily life amman, abba are used while addressing to them. Mama/baba, Ammi/abbo are also used.
  • Welsh mam tad (mutates to dad)

Kartvelian languages

  • 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".

Language isolates

  • Basque ama
  • Japanese, 父 (chichi) and 母 (haha) are 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.
  • Korean, 엄마 (eomma) [ʌmma] and 아빠 (appa) are mom and dad in informal language, which is ultimately derived from the formal words, 아버지 (abeoji) and 어머니 (eomeoni) as father and mother. Korean is usually considered a language isolate with no living relatives, but some authorities differ.
  • Kutenai, a language isolate of southeastern British Columbia, uses the word Ma.
  • Sumerian: 𒀀𒈠 / ama

Mayan languages

Niger-Congo languages

  • Igbo: Mama / Nne / Nma
  • Yoruba: Mama / Momo / Iya
  • Zulu: Mama and Baba

Sino-Tibetan languages

  • Burmese, မိခင် (mi khin) and ဖခင် (pha khin) are the words for "mother" and "father" respectively. However, parents are usually referred to by their children as မေမေ (may may) and ဖေဖေ (phay phay) — "Mom" and "Dad."
  • Mandarin Chinese, 父親 (fùqīn) and 母親 (mǔqīn) are 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 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.)
  • Tibetan uses amma for mother and appa for father.

Tai-Kadai languages

Turkic languages

See also


  1. ^ a b Jakobson, R. (1962) "Why 'mama' and 'papa'?" In Jakobson, R. Selected Writings, Vol. I: Phonological Studies, pp. 538–545. The Hague: Mouton.
  2. ^ a b Nichols, J. (1999) "Why 'me' and 'thee'?" Historical Linguistics 1999: Selected Papers from the 14th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Vancouver, 9–13 August 1999, ed. Laurel J. Brinton, John Benjamins Publishing, 2001, pages 253-276.
  3. ^ a b Bancel, P.J. and A.M. de l'Etang. (2008) "The Age of Mama and Papa" Bengtson J. D. In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory: Essays in the four fields of anthropology. (John Benjamins Publishing, Dec 3, 2008), pages 417-438.
  4. ^ a b Bancel, P.J. and A.M. de l'Etang. (2013) "Brave new words" In New Perspectives on the Origins of Language, ed. C. Lefebvre, B. Comrie, H. Cohen (John Benjamins Publishing, Nov 15, 2013), pages 333-377.
  5. ^ Gosline, Anna (26 July 2004). "Family words came first for early humans". NEW SCIENTIST. 
  6. ^ mama on the map
  7. ^ papa on the map
  8. ^ អឹង, គឹមសាន (2015). រិទ្យាសាស្រ្ដសិក្សាសង្គម (Grade 1 Society School Book). Cambodia: Publishing and Distributing House. pp. 2–3. ISBN 9789995001551. 
  9. ^ Rodriguez, Evelyn Ibatan (2005-01-01). Coming of Age: Identities and Transformations in Filipina Debutantes and Mexicana Quinceañeras. University of California, Berkeley. p. 65. [A] considerable number of elements crept into Philippine languages...including...nanay...and tatay. 
  10. ^ Morrow, Paul (2007-10-01). "Mexico is not just a town in Pampanga". Pilipino Express News Magazine. Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  11. ^ Wright, Mr Mal (2013-03-01). Shoestring Paradise - Facts and Anecdotes for Westerners Wanting to Live in the Philippines. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 9781105936265. 
  12. ^ English, Leo James (2015). Tagalog-English Dictionary (27 ed.). Quezon City: Kalayaan Press Mktg. Ent. Inc. (National Book Store). ISBN 9710844652. 
Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Mama and papa"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA