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

Eric Melac eric.melac at univ-montp3.fr
Tue Oct 26 11:51:40 UTC 2021

Dear Ian, 

It might not be exactly what you are looking for, but in
Central Tibetan, the word for 'milk' and 'breast' are the same: _'o.ma_,
and the honoric verb for 'eat' and 'drink' are the same: _mchod_. 



Le 2021-10-26 13:41, Ege Baran Dalmaz a écrit :

> Dear
> I just realized that in Turkish, there are some uncommon
variations of the said words that could link a colexification of some
kind. It is just an (un)educated guess that I have, though. 
> There is
an uncommon way to refer to your mother in Turkish, as ['ma.ma [1]], it
is mostly used by "western-oriented" people that do not use [an.'ne],
the most common way to say mother in Turkish. 
> In child-directed
speech, food and/or breast milk can be referred to as [ma.'ma], meaning
food in general. 
> Also, breast in Turkish is [me.'me]. 
> If these
three could be thought to be colexified, I guess it would be helpful for
you. The mother one ['ma.ma [1]] is not really common, but the other two
for food and breast are quite common in standard Turkish. 
> Best, 
> Ege Baran Dalmaz 
> Boğaziçi University 
> Graduate School of
Social Sciences 
> Department of Linguistics 
> ebarandalmaz at gmail.com 

> Jess Tauber <tetrahedralpt at gmail.com>, 26 Eki 2021 Sal, 13:16
tarihinde şunu yazdı: 
> In Yahgan (a critically endangered Native
American language from Tierra del Fuego, which I've studied for nearly a
quarter century), the standard word for 'mother' is da:bi (colon marks
tenseness of the vowel preceding it in the keyboard-friendly orthography
I developed), while the set of words for 'breast' includes chvmmvsh (v
represents schwa), chvmmvsha, chvmmvshka, tvmmvsha, while da:pvsh is
both 'breast' and 'milk'. So traces of dialect mixing or
augmentative/diminutive shifting of what were originally variations on
the same theme back in the day. 
> And 'eat' is normally atama, where
ama represents 'food' in general (but fatty sea mammals used for food in
particular). vndvpa is generic for 'meat'. In the inclement climate of
Tierra del Fuego (cold and wet), inhabitants went around nearly naked,
keeping fires going at all times to warm themselves against. When they
cooked they only rarely did so completely- usually only enough heat to
melt the fat within morsels being prepared. They often woke at all hours
of the night to have a nosh, and when they put on weight by overeating,
it would just as quickly melt off their bodies. 
> Another form
likely related to the original set I mentioned above (and which I'm now
only realizing) is muru:, meaning 'suck'. Because of the morphophonetic
changes in word building, this shows up in combination as mush-. 
> The
word for 'drink' is vla, and there appears to be a very old alternation
(likely sound-symbolic) between /l/ and /sh/ in the language, based on
internal reconstruction I did years ago. 
> There is also a form
ushkuru: meaning 'swallow, gulp down, eat' which appears to be part of
this same system 
> Jess Tauber 
> On Tue, Oct 26, 2021 at 4:29 AM
ENRIQUE BERNARDEZ SANCHIS <ebernard at filol.ucm.es> wrote: 
> 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. 
> Enrique 
> 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
> 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
Facultad de Filología 
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
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[1] http://ma.ma
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