Article published in:New Perspectives on the Origins of Language
Edited by Claire Lefebvre, Bernard Comrie and Henri Cohen
[Studies in Language Companion Series 144] 2013
► pp. 333–378
Brave new words
Contrary to the received idea that globally spread papa/mama words are constantly reinvented by children in different languages, we show here that these words are always inherited from the most ancient stages of their respective families, with the exception of a number of borrowings – which are not innovations, either. We then show that probabilistic calculations aiming to demonstrate that global and other remote etymologies might be mere chance resemblances are invalid, and that chance cannot be reasonably invoked in the cases these calculations deal with. Consequently, the global convergence of papa/mama words can only be a trace of a common heritage of all human languages. Finally, we link this finding with others, indicating that these words must have appeared early, most probably at the very origin of articulate language.
Published online: 21 November 2013
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