[Lingtyp] addressing the daughter as Mummy

Seino van Breugel seinobreugel at gmail.com
Mon Aug 24 20:34:53 UTC 2020

Dear all,

In Atong (Tibeto-Burman, Northeast India and Bangladesh), there are several
reciprocal kinship terms that denote non-reciprocal relations. Among them
are *baba *'father', *ama *'mother', *achu *'grandfather' and *abu
These terms are only reciprocal when used as terms of address. This means
that, for example, a father can call his son *baba* and his son calls his
father *baba*, too. Likewise, a mother can call her daughter *ama*, and the
daughter can call her mother *ama* back. A father can call his daughter
*ama*, and a mother can call her son *baba*, but in those cases, the
reverse does not work, i.e. a daughter cannot call her father *ama* and a
son cannot call his mother *baba*. The same goes for the terms *achu*
'grandfather' and *abu* 'grandmother'.

Note that the terms *baba *and *ama* are classificatory kinship terms.
There are different terms for the biological father, *wa•*, and biological
mother, *jyw•*. (In Atong orthography, the letter y represents the sound
schwa, the bullet represents glottalisation.)

Interestingly, Atong also has some non-reciprocal kinship terms for
relationships that are seen as reciprocal in English. For example, the term
*gumi* ‘brother-in-law: elder sister’s husband’, denotes the relation of a
person to his elder sister’s husband, but not the inverse relation and is
thus a non-reciprocal kinship term. The term used to indicate the relation
of someone’s elder sister’s husband to this someone is *jongsyri*
‘brother-in-law: wife’s younger brother’.


Dr. Seino van Breugel

On Thu, Aug 20, 2020 at 9:15 AM Zahra Etebari <zahra.etebari at ling.su.se>

> Dear all,
> Persian also shows the same phenomena. In this language in addition to 'm
> āman' (mother) and 'bābā' (father), other relative terms like 'xāle'
> (mother's sister), 'amme' (father's sister), 'dāyi' (mother's brother),
> and 'amu' (father's brother) are also used to address children by those
> relatives.
> Best wishes,
> Zahra
> Zahra Etebari
> Guest PhD Candidate
> Department of Linguistics
> Stockholm University, Sweden
> PhD Candidate
> Department of Linguistics
> Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of
> Sergey Loesov <sergeloesov at gmail.com>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, August 12, 2020 9:34:37 PM
> *To:* lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> *Subject:* [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!
> Sergey
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> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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