[Lingtyp] addressing the daughter as Mummy

Nino Amiridze nino.amiridze at gmail.com
Tue Aug 18 21:00:58 UTC 2020

Dear Sergey,

Georgian (Kartvelian) has the phenomenon. Young people may get addressed by
their older relatives by the term that refers to the relatives themselves.
For instance, if a grandmother addresses her grandson (say, Giorgi), she
may address him by uttering (a) or (b):

(a) giorgi, modi chemtan!
Giorgi, come to.me
" Giorgi, come to me!"


(b) bebia/bebiko, modi chemtan!
grandmother/granny, come to me
Lit.: grandmother, come to me!
"Giorgi, come to me!"

This phenomenon is discussed in Boeder 1988 (
where he mentions similar cases in Lebanese Arabic described in Ayoub 1964
and Southern Italian dialects by Spitzer 1928. In both cases, the
phenomenon is known from baby talk, when grown ups try to lower themselves
to the level of children. As a result, a role substitution happens. Boeder
brings Willis 1977 as a reference, according to which the role substitution
is an important play when children and grown ups communicate in English
baby talk.

For me, as a native Georgian speaker, the explanation does not exactly make
sense for Georgian. Rather, the address forms have always been a shortened
forms of affectionate formulas:

bebia [genacvalos / shemogevlos], modi chemtan!
grandmother [will.secrifice.herself.for.you], come to me
'"X, come to me" (where X is a name of a grandkid)

I wonder what other native speakers have to say about the role substitution
in Georgian. And I would be curious to learn whether the mentioned
languages or others illustrating the phenomenon can have the 'role
mirroring' due to shortening of blessing formulas.


Ayoub, Millicent R. 1964. Bi-polarity in Arabic kinship terms. In Horace G.
Lunt (ed.). Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Linguists.
The Hague: Mouton, pp. 1100-1106.

Boeder, Winfried, 1988. Über einige Anredeformen im Kaukasus. Georgika,
Heft 11, pp. 11-20.

Spitzer, Leo, 1928. Über Personenvertauschung in der Ammensprache. In L.
Spitzer, Stilstudien. Hueber, München, 1928, pp. 26-38.

Wills, Dorothy Davis, 1977. Participant deixis in English baby talk. In:
C.E. Snow and Ch. A. Ferguson (eds.), Talking to Children. Language Input
and Acquisition. Papers from a conference sponsored by the Committee on
Sociolinguistics of the Social Science Research Council (USA). Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, pp. 271-295.

Best regards,

On Sat, Aug 15, 2020 at 9:26 PM Sergey Loesov <sergeloesov at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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!
> Sergey
> _______________________________________________
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> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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Dr. Nino Amiridze

E-mail: Nino.Amiridze at gmail.com
WWW: https://sites.google.com/site/ninoamiridze/
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