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Brave new words

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Abstract

Contrary to the received idea that globally spread <i>papa/mama</i> 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 &#8211; 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 <i>papa/mama</i> 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.

References

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