[Lingtyp] Colexification between 'mother', 'breast', and 'eat/drink'

ENRIQUE BERNARDEZ SANCHIS ebernard at filol.ucm.es
Tue Oct 26 08:29:15 UTC 2021

Hi, Ian. In Cha'palaa, a language spoken in NW Ecuador, the root  ču-
appears in derivatives meaning "mother / breast / milk / drink". It is just
a matter of adding nominal or verbal inflection.

El mar, 26 oct 2021 a las 10:00, Daniel Ross (<djross3 at gmail.com>) escribió:

> Dear Ian,
> The typical cross-linguistic association is with the form "mama" for
> mother, based on the phonetic articulation closest to nursing, which
> appears in too many languages to be coincidental or due to contact.
> (Variants of this follow, such as baba/papa for 'father' and some other
> CV-doublets. There's a whole series of them in Swahili, for instance: mama
> mother, baba father, dada sister, kaka brother, nyanya grandmother, and
> some others that aren't exact copies like babu father or mtoto child.)
> My guess would be that this association with "mother" could block other
> lexical developments for the word. This might be encouraged by mothers who
> want their child's first word to be referring to them, or at least that's
> the impression I have from American culture.
> On the other hand, there may be further uses or derivations of this form
> in some languages, such as Latin *mamma* 'breast' and other derivations
> like *mammalia* (class of animals producing milk, i.e. with breasts).
> A related proposal of an ancient cognate in the (now disputed) Amerind
> family is maliq'a ('swallow, throat'), from Greenberg and Ruhlen's 1992
> paper "Linguistic Origins of Native Americans":
> https://www.jstor.org/stable/24939295 and Ruhlen then expanded this to
> claim a possible Proto-World etymology in his 1994 book *On the Origin of
> Languages*. While many of us would be hesitant to accept such an extreme
> reconstruction, the data provided there from various languages and families
> is directly relevant to your question, and in fact could be a better
> explanation for recurrent similar etymologies, rather than ancient
> relationship or coincidence, as appears to be the case with *mama*.
> (These etymologies seem tied together, with the Indo-European variants of
> maliq'a meaning "milk", for example.)
> Daniel Ross
> ALT Webmaster
> Lecturer, UC Riverside
> On Tue, Oct 26, 2021 at 12:35 AM JOO, Ian [Student] <
> ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk> wrote:
>> Dear typologists,
>> Are you aware of any language that colexifies (uses the same lexeme for)
>> the following four concepts: 'mother', 'breast', and 'eat/drink'?
>> The logic is that, the mother's breast is usually the first thing that a
>> newborn baby "eats", so it would be natural if a language colexified these
>> concepts, especially in baby-talk vocabulary.
>> I would much appreciate your help.
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Enrique Bernárdez
Profesor Honorífico de Lingüística General
Departamento de Lingüística, Estudios Árabes, Hebreos y de Asia Oriental
Facultad de Filología
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
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