Saying mama

Baby H is about to turn seven months old. On the one hand, how can it be seven already? On the other hand…only seven? Really?

Parenting sometimes makes me exhibit split personality disorder-like symptoms.

She has been babbling and making more and more noises, but to my great chagrin, she will not make a mama sound. She loves dada, although I think she thinks it means dancing, and she says it to get us to dance.

So I’ve been thinking about the mama sound, and how it’s one of those words that’s so universal over different languages. I used google translate to check several different languages, and found maman (French), mama (Spanish, German, Russian), mamma (Italian, Swedish), and maminka (Czech). (I tried to check some Asian and Middle Eastern languages but since the alphabets are different, google translate was unhelpful, and honestly, I did minimal research on this in order to not dispute my own theory. #confirmationbias)

I read an article that suggested that babies first gravitate towards the m, p, and b sounds because they are the easiest to make. They come entirely from the lips, no teeth or tongue required. Why then would babies around the world naturally associate mama with mother, rather than papa or baba? This same article called the mama sound a “slight nasal murmur” that babies make while breastfeeding – meaning “mama” first signifies to them food, and it becomes associated with mother after that.

This seems like a good theory to me. I accept it.

My follow up question is then – why is the other word that comes to mind as being very similar across languages – “no”? (French non, Spanish/Italian no, German nein, Russian nyet, Swedish nej, Czech ne)

Does this mean that moms are somehow linked to “no”? Because it does feel like that.

Parenting does sometimes make me feel like I’m just saying “No” all day long.


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