Why Mother in Several Languages Sounds Similar.

Whether you’re a linguist or not, mother in several languages sounds eerily similar. Ever wondered how or why?

The answer lies with babies and how they start to talk. The pioneering linguist Roman Jakobson figured it out. If you’re a baby making a random sound, the easiest vowel is ah because you can make it without doing anything with your tongue or lips. Then, if you are going to vary things at all, the first impulse is to break up the stream of ahhh by closing your lips for a spell, especially since you’ve been doing that to nurse. Hence, mmmm, such that you get a string of mahs as you keep the sound going while breaking it up at intervals.

Logical and pretty amazing.

Can we therefore infer that one of babies’ first words, mama, is a mere developmental coincidence? To the contrary, it appears to a be a fundamental survival mechanism. Being able to say mother when you’re in need is comparable to being able to quickly dial 911 in the event of an emergency. Except, mother somehow comes naturally.

MOCCA Mums, we would want our children to have our names on “speed dial” in case of any emergency, but as they grow this may become less natural and less frequent. How can we maintain this bond and need that was formed on their lips from birth? Should we? Or are we there to prepare them for independence?

Deep, sentimental thoughts on this Mother’s Day. On a lighter note, here are 10 ways of saying “mother” in foreign languages.

  1. Arabic: Umm / Ahm
  2. Brazilian Portuguese: Mãe
  3. Swahili (East Africa): Mama or Mzazi or Mzaa
  4. Haitian Creole: manman mè
  5. Yoruba (Nigeria): iya
  6. Jamaican patois: muma
  7. Twii / Akan (Ghana): maame
  8. Cherokee (Native American): Etsi
  9. Lingala (Congo) mama, pl. bamama maman
  10. Zulu (Southern Africa) – unina

Happy Mother’s Day to all amazing MOCCA mums, mothers and carers.

Photo Credit – Forharriet.com