There is a word, and only one, spoken the same way in nearly every language known to humankind – “Mama”..

The definitive study on “mama and papa” as universal terms was conducted by Russian linguistRoman Jakobson. He explained that the easiest vocalizations for a human to make are open-mouth vowel sounds. Babies can make vowel sounds (cries) from day one. And they do. Constantly. As they begin to experiment with making other noises, babies will test some of the easier consonant sounds. Usually they start with the sounds made with closed lips, or “labial sounds” such as /m/ /p/ /b/. Babies summon their energy to push out that new consonant sound “MMMM” and then relax into an open mouth vowel, usually “ah” — which is the easiest. When you combine that with a baby’s natural repetition in speech, or “babbling,” you get ” ma-ma”, “ba-ba” “pa-pa,” and so on.

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5 Comments

  1. I was already aware of this study and its findings. Nevertheless, decades ago, my son addressed his father by title before so addressing his mother. “Da-da” preceded “Ma-ma,” much to my wife’s chagrin. What can I say? He always was an exceptional lad, and still is!

    Regardless: Happy Mothers’ Day to all readers to whom that happy title applies!

  2. Mamas are #1….pardon, to loving Papas….we bare and nurture are young! Amen to Mama!
    Being the Mama to girls….they might have said Dada first, but they needed Mama first!

    • Correction: our young

  3. “they might have said Dada first, but they needed Mama first!”

    True, no doubt. I merely delighted in sharing my own, personal experience: with tongue puckishly in cheek.

    • Mark,
      I was just teasing. Some parent’s get “bent out of shape” on whom, the delightful cherub addresses first, quite amusing!
      I do not have any recollection in our family, they LOVE their Father ( Girl’s and their Dad’s! ) I was the same way….Dad was perfect……


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