Folium: Why “Mom” and “Dad” Sound So Similar in So Many Languages? via The Atlantic

Folium: Why "Mom" and "Dad" Sound So Similar in So Many Languages? via The Atlantic

Folium: Why “Mom” and “Dad” Sound So Similar in So Many Languages? via The Atlantic


Have you ever called your mom, mom? Or your dad, dad? Probably.

So do people in other countries; imagine that! We might call our parents mom or dad slightly differently, after all, there is a language barrier. However, the words we use to address our parents like this seem to almost always come out eerily similar.

Can you imagine that? Practically the same, across the language barrier?

There are extraordinarily complex and confusing languages that break down similarily to how we say them in English. Welsh, for example, is a language that may have a tendency to looking like someone decided to repetitively smack a keyboard. However, their words for mom and dad happen to be mam and tad! A bit too close, doesn’t it seem?

To take it even further, the Eskimo say anana and ataata. Don’t those sound a bit eerily similar to mama and dada, if you really think about it?

This might seem freaky, but it does have quite the interesting explanation. You see, we tend to prefer to make /m/ and /a/ sounds when we’re learning how to talk. The same goes for /d/ or /p/ sounds for our dads.

When we’re starting to speak and making those /m/ and /a/ sounds we are more likely than not addressing our mothers. They then begin to encourage them to address them as such since when we began to attempt to talk we were seemingly addressing them.

“The order in which babies learn to make sounds explains why the next closest usual caretaker to mom is so often called papa or baba.” – The Atlantic

So, we’ve been encouraged by our mother to address her in words that are similar to ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ and continue to do it. The same reason has been emphasized across languages. In different countries, through different languages mothers and fathers have heard their children trying to talk to them and heard something vaguely resembling words being spoken.

Therefore, they encouraged it and little baby us decided that it was a good idea to continue to repeat the words. The same process continued over generations and generations, and now it’s accepted.

Will your first words be ‘mama’ or ‘dada,’ the popular question, and an interesting theory to think on.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject and broadening your knowledge of things related to it check out the original article. I have also provided a few more links for further reading if you have any interest. Don’t forget to read the article!

Ashleigh Slater
LEAF Contributor