[Lingtyp] [Ext] Re: addressing the daughter as Mummy

Paul, Prof. Dr. Ludwig ludwig.paul at uni-hamburg.de
Mon Aug 24 12:03:01 UTC 2020

Dear Sergey,

the "reciprocal" addressing of (grand)parents seems to be widespread among Iranian peoples of the wider area, see for Baluchi:

Rzehak, Lutz. „Menschen des Rückens – Menschen des Bauches. Sprache und Wirklichkeit im Verwandtschaftssystem der Belutschen“. Iran und Turfan. Beiträge Berliner Wissenschaftler, Werner Sundermann zum 60. Geburtstag gewidmet, hg. Christiane Reck, Peter Zieme, Wiesbaden 1995, S. 207-229. (cf. p. 211)

Ferraro, F. "Baluchi kinship terminology". Newsletter of Baluchistan Studies 5, 1988, p. 33-62. (p. 41)

and for Wakhi:

Grjunberg, Aleksandr Leonovič and Ivan Michajlovič Steblin-Kamenskij. Vachanskij jazyk. Teksty, slovar', grammatičeskij očerk. Moscow 1976. (p. 389, 395)



Von: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> im Auftrag von Geoffrey Haig <geoffrey.haig at uni-bamberg.de>
Gesendet: Freitag, 21. August 2020 12:27:13
An: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Betreff: Re: [Lingtyp] [Ext] Re: addressing the daughter as Mummy

Dear Sergey,

the practice you are referring to is indeed widespread among Kurds of North Iraq, particularly those that retain a strong sense of tradition.

There is a difference though to the practice mentioned by Nino (below) in Georgian, where a grandmother can apparently address her grandson with "granny" (Nino's example (b) below).

This would not be possible for Kurdish speakers; whichever replacement form of address they use, the gender must match the person addressed, so a mother could not address her son with 'mummy', only her daughter.

More generally this is part of a powerful tendency to avoid addressing, or referring to, close kin with their given names. Most clearly this is found among husbands and wives; traditionally, one never refers to one's spouse with his/her given name, but some kind of paraphrase, e.g. husband addresses / refers to wife with 'mother of X', where X is the name of the eldest daughter. There's a whole bunch of possibilities here,it gets complicated and is poorly researched. Furthermore, these customs are disappearing and younger generation Kurds do not taboo proper names in the same manner, so it is getting increasingly difficult to document this.



Am 18.08.2020 um 23:00 schrieb Nino Amiridze:
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!"


(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.


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<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!
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Dr. Nino Amiridze

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Prof. Dr. Geoffrey Haig
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