baby talk

Disclaimer: It is just a goofy post for the heck of it. Neither it made much sense while drafting, nor is expected while reading.

The very first word of a kid holds a special place in the life of his/her parents. And invariably the magic word would be 'ma' or 'pa' (or some other close variant of that). Hence, its of at most joy when he/she starts to talk and they go ecstatic and with much delight they spread the glad news to all near and dear, going over the moon explaining how their own blood called them out for the very first time.

In the last few months, I have been in gatherings/get-togethers where I have come across couple of my married acquaintances with toddlers. And naturally, someone would ask about the kid and the conversation would slip into how the babies are doing their growth developments. In one such gathering the conversation was about how one of the babies had started to talk and an attempt to make him repeat 'ma' in front of the present audience. He did repeat his performance much to the delight of the parents and the joy of the others, but it got me wondering….why is it that the first words of most toddlers are either 'ma' or 'pa'. Why is it always that? And why is 'ma' is the short form for mother in almost all languages around the globe?

Couldn’t it have been the other way round - that sound 'ma' started representing mother since most children manage to utter that sound before any other. Maybe it’s the easiest phonetic that a toddler is capable of producing and hence there so called first word. So the question to ask is not from when the kid started talking, with the word ma; but from when on did ma became a synonym for mother.

I am not an expert of the etymology and no way claiming to be an linguistic expert, but it cannot be just chance that Ma or Pa became mother and father universally!

Maybe some clever elderly in some family many many generations ago might have come up with this idea “first sound produced by all in our family has been ma, since they have been in close proximity with his/her mother, lets make that then synonym for mother”.

.... I still wonder!

(On an personal note, I have been told that my first word was aani or aana. Hard luck either way, since it means nail and elephant respectively in our dialect. Please spare a thought for the horror my parents would have had!)



Jaya said...

Interesting thought. For that matter, cows n goats also go 'moo' or 'ma' or at least thats what it sounds like. I can't remember what my first word was... need to verify with the parents. Its sort of the chicken n egg theory isn't it? Which came first?

Aravind said...

u nailed it...yeahs its a typ. chicken-egg case......though religious people can argue that it was from the days before babel tower fell :)