[Lingtyp] addressing the daughter as Mummy

Françoise Rose francoise.rose at univ-lyon2.fr
Mon Aug 17 14:41:06 UTC 2020

Hi Sergey,
I was not aware of this address term reciprocity. Very nice!
Note that in other cultures, address terms that are etymologically directed to parents may be used for children, whatever the kin relationship between speaker and addressee (maybe always with the diminutive?). In Bolivia, “papito” and “mamita” (‘little Dad’ and ‘little Mum’) are used to address children, and I remember my sister addressing her son in French (and possibly other little boys) as “Petit Père” (‘small father’). But these parent address terms can also be used more generally as address terms even in the absence of a kinship relationship between speaker and addressee. People sometimes address me as “mamita” in Bolivia, even though I am obviously not their mother, and this happened even before I was a mother myself. In French, the reduplicated form of mother “Mémère” and of father “Pépère” can be used pejoratively for any woman or man.
These are just a few disorganized thoughts, and illustrate a process different from that you are inquiring. Still it shows two types of semantic extension (by loss of semes) of address terms.
Very best,

De : Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> De la part de Sergey Loesov
Envoyé : mercredi 12 août 2020 21:35
À : lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Objet : [Lingtyp] addressing the daughter as Mummy

Dear colleagues,
In various cultures (those I know of happen to be mostly Islamic) the form of address can be copied by the addressee. Thus, when a daughter addresses her mother as “Mummy”, the mother often reciprocates, saying to the daughter something like “yes, Mummy”, or “what, Mummy…” (Same of course with a son and his father.)
In particular, I came across this kind of exchange in my fieldwork with Kurdish (Kurmanji) and some contemporary Aramaic varieties in Upper Mesopotamia and Syria, but this phenomenon is also current in the Soqotri language, an unwritten Semitic language spoken on the Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean, southeast of Yemen.
Are we aware of explanations for this kind of usage? Are there cross-language studies of this kind of facts?
Thank you very much!
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