First Words (28th May, 2012)
At college I remember doing a child-language acquisition module (how children learn language/how to speak) and remember the whole session on how our vocal equipment makes some sounds easier to make (plosives, fricatives etc.) so was both stunned and fascinated when a new thought filtered into my brain unbidden this weekend. “Mo … mma” is usually the first (structured) sound babies make and repeat (repetition is evidence of use of proper language of course) and we now take it to mean “mother”; indeed our words mother, mommy, ma and similar are based on this word. Now me I had always assumed that this was us teaching babies our words, but actually (it now occurs to me) we give the babies first carer this name because the baby can say it! Now, if the male members of the family had been – in early times, and traditionally, the baby’s first carer we “fathers” would now be universally called “mom”.