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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Sound Issue
I just told my sis that she is looking like a horse and she replied back saying "Maeeee", which was her imitation of a horse's neigh. This reminded me of a topic I had once spent some time thinking abt. Two years back I was forced to participate in a talk, of people with ten times my reputation, on sound interfaces. I had tried to make the point that there are certain sounds which evoke similar feelings in the minds of people. For example, I think there is something "ma"therly with the sound "ma". Maa, Amma, Mother, Mummy, Mom - all of them have some use of the sound "m" and I think that has something to do with the emotion we associate with the sound. I've done some reading up on this topic and a theory claims that all these words have a common European origin ... but then why don't we have any similarity in the words used for dad - Pop, Appa, Baba, Father, Dad etc. The other example I had used was that of a dog's sound and at that point all the other people in that room pounced on me saying that my claim that all of us think a dog says something resembling "Bow" was untrue. Apparently there are cultures where the sound for a dog's bark has no resemblance to a "bow". At that point I felt bad at being hushed but in retrospect - I think they made sense. Maybe "mother" is an exception. In Bengali people claim that a cow says "Hamba" and the English language says that a cow says "Moo". The words are completely different. Similarly Bengali' claim that a pigeon says "Bokkom bokkom" while Hindi uses the term "Gutur gutur". The disparity in these onomatopoeic trends makes me wonder if animals in different countries and places actually speak different languages or dialects. (Though I find it difficult to believe that India has both Hindi and Bengali speaking pigeons). Nevertheless, if anyone reading this has more knowledge on this issue - please lemme know.

Comments:
Will point out that in Marathi, the word for 'mother' is 'aai', which does not include the prominent 'm' sound that is common in other languages.
 
Ani - point taken. I'm sure there are tonsa other examples of non "m" mothers. It's just that many languages have it and the similarity is striking. Check out this site for a comprehensive list - almost 80% of the words have a "ma" in it.
 
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