“Mama” and “Papa” Words

I keep thinking I’ve already posted this link here and keep finding I haven’t, so here it is.


Yes, yes, it’s pdf, but it’s worth it.  The late linguist R. L. (“Larry”) Trask puts into very clear terms Roman Jakobson’s explanation for the fact that so many languages have words for “mother” that sound like “mama” and so many languages have words for “father” that sound like “papa.”

Slow Start


So the blog is off to a slow start.  I haven’t had much time lately for the sort of wide-ranging reading that would support a lot of postings, and I know you guys have a lot going on as well.  But I think that email would be at a lull right now as well, for the same reason.  So I still believe that going to a blog format was the right move, and that future developments will vindicate this judgement.  I call for a surge of comments, posts, and new links. 

Here’s a link to linguist Larry Trask’s very engaging article, “Where do Mama/Papa words come from?”  I may have included a link in an email a while back, but it’s a really fun read and very convincing.  If you’re at all interested in what historical linguists do, you’ll enjoy it.  The file is pdf, but worth it.  http://www.sussex.ac.uk/linguistics/documents/where_do_mama2.pdf

And another youtube clip from The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  I love them. 


Speaking of youtube, here’s a Viewmaster commercial from 1971 featuring Henry Fonda and Jodie Foster.  Also a kid who may or may not have been on The Brady Bunch


The Word Origins class I teach includes the Greek word phobos, meaning fear, the uncontrollable urge to run away.  Of course that gives us lots of English words ending in the six letters phobia, words that refer to irrational, unmanageable fears.  People get interested in lists of paronyms like that, so the website below has lots of fans.