The age of Mama and Papa

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The global distribution of <i>mama/papa </i>kinship terms has been traditionally explained as the result of linguistic convergence, not of common origin. It is usually alleged that these terms are in no way resistant to linguistic change and that they are subject to constant modification, loss and replacement by other nursery-shaped kinship terms. A serious etymological survey shows that kinship nursery terms are, to the contrary, extraordinarily resistant to phonetic and semantic change, as the most ancient written data clearly prove. The cumulative evidence discards the traditional linguistic explanation for the global distribution of <i>mama/papa </i>words and advocates for their antiquity within the language families where they are found and, further, for their common descent from a language ancestral to all existing languages.


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