As infants, our first and most long-lasting relationships will be, more often than not, with our mothers. When babies start on the road towards language acquisition, one of the first sounds a baby can produce is M. One of the three labial consonants. Derived from the Latin for lips, these sounds are relatively easy for children to replicate. They do not require any tricky tongue or tooth manoeuvres. Perfect for beginners. So is it really any surprise that so many world languages feature the letter M when referring to dear old Mum?
This much becomes apparent by simply looking at a handful of languages that have very little in common with each other. We have Mandarin Chinese ma, Hindi maa, Vietnamese me, Malay ema, Basue ama and Quechua ma. This is also true of many members of the Indo-European family of languages. These include ancient Sanskrit matr, ancient Greek meter, modern Farsi madar, Irish máthair, Russian mat, Polish matka, Dutch moeder, Danish moder, ancient Latin mater, Spanish madre, French mère and German Mutter.
Whether this is an innate feature of our human consciousness or a learnt process is still hotly contested with compelling evidence from both camps. Either way, it certainly makes you think about the quirks of human language.
Let’s not forget about Mmmm… I guess a spin off from the word yum, but a word in it’s own right. Chances are you will hum this word after a spectacular meal!
So let’s hear it for magnificent and marvellous mothers, mums, moms, mamas and mummies everywhere! If you can find any more variations of mother featuring the letter M, please share below!
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