Baby's an It (call of the obstetrician?)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 10 14:37:30 UTC 2008

At 10:27 AM -0400 9/10/08, Mark Mandel wrote:
>"Mommy" and "Daddy" can also be 3rd person -- "Look, Daddy's bringing you
>your panda!" -- like other kin terms.

Yes, that's what I meant by "illeism".  (See
The motivation for illeism in baby talk is not identity insecurity as
such, but the well-known (presumed) difficulty that
indexicality/shifters (as in first and second person pronouns) pose
for young language-learners.  (I recall a Sesame Street episode when
our own children were at the appropriate tender age that attempted to
"teach", or at least play on, such issues involving the proper use of
"I"/"you", "my"/"your", etc.)


>m a m
>On Tue, Sep 9, 2008 at 10:29 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:
>>  At 10:12 PM -0400 9/9/08, Mark Mandel wrote:
>>  >Whatever you call it, "mommy", "daddy", etc., fall into the same category,
>>  >except that they can also refer to the speaker.
>>  >
>>  >m a m
>>  Yes, sort of indexical names.  I'm not sure "Mommy" and "Daddy" [as
>>  indexical names] are that different in function from "yours truly",
>>  "{this/your faithful} correspondent", "the present writer", etc.,
>>  except that they're used more with children.   As far as the illeism
>>  component, children at the toddler stage often use their own name in
>>  place of the first person pronoun too.  (But I guess not "Baby",
>>  except for Baby Houseman in "Dirty Dancing".)
>>  LH
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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