[Lingtyp] addressing the daughter as Mummy

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Thu Aug 20 11:05:56 UTC 2020

As a footnote to Eitan's comments on Hebrew, I would add that the form 
/mama-le/, with the Yiddish-origin diminutive, is used not only by 
mothers addressing their children, but by extension also as an 
affectionate address term to persons of any gender, age and parental 
status (as I myself can attest to, as the occasional fortunate addressee).

On 20/08/2020 08:22, Eitan Grossman wrote:
> Hi all,
> Modern Hebrew also has this phenomenon, e.g., /mami/ or /mama/ ('mom') 
> and /abuya/ ('my father'). Its sources seem to be both Maghrebi 
> Judeo-Arabic and Palestinian Arabic, but it also makes sense that it 
> might also come from Kurdish via Neo-Aramaic. Interestingly, a common 
> term is/aba-le/ (father-DIM), which takes a Yiddish-origin 
> diminutive suffix on an Aramaic-origin noun, while the very use of the 
> 'father' term for a child is patterned on Arabic.
> In Beduin Arabic of the Negev, these reversed kin terms are extremely 
> extensive and seem to apply to pretty much any kin relationship. 
> Henkin has written about this a lot, e.g., Ch 10 of her 2010. Negev 
> Arabic: Dialectal, Sociolinguistic, and Stylistic Variation. 
> Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. It's also worth checking out her work on 
> cursing, which can involve what looks like 'self-cursing' due to the 
> kinship term reversal.
> Eitan
> Eitan Grossman
> Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics
> Chair, Department of Linguistics
> Hebrew University of Jerusalem
> Tel: +972 2 588 3809
> Fax: +972 2 588 1224
> On Thu, Aug 20, 2020 at 7:27 AM Nino Amiridze <nino.amiridze at gmail.com 
> <mailto:nino.amiridze at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     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 <http://to.me>
>     " Giorgi, come to me!"
>     or
>     (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
>     (http://www.staff.uni-oldenburg.de/winfried.boeder/download/52_Boeder_1988_Ueber_einige_Anredeformen_imKaukasus.pdf),
>     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.
>     References:
>     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,
>     Nino
>     On Sat, Aug 15, 2020 at 9:26 PM Sergey Loesov
>     <sergeloesov at gmail.com <mailto: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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>     -- 
>     Dr. Nino Amiridze
>     E-mail: Nino.Amiridze at gmail.com <mailto:Nino.Amiridze at gmail.com>
>     WWW: https://sites.google.com/site/ninoamiridze/
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David Gil
Senior Scientist (Associate)
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-556825895
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81344082091

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