'Papa' is the daddy of ancient language

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The Independent Online

The word "papa" may have been one of the first utterances by our distant ancestors when language first developed many thousands of years ago.

A study by two linguists searching for the origins of speech has found that the word "papa" is present in almost 700 out of 1,000 languages, which they argue is more than a coincidence.

Pierre Bancel and Alain Matthey de L'Etang, of the Association for the Study of Linguistics and Prehistoric Anthropology in Paris, said that their study investigated 14 major language families and found that "papa" meant father, or male relative on the father's side, in 71 per cent of cases.

"There is only one explanation for the consistent meaning of the word papa - a common ancestry," Dr Bancel told New Scientist magazine.

Many of the 6,000 languages spoken today share close kin names such as "mama" and "papa". One explanation could be that there is a common root extending as far back as 100,000 years, when humans might have all spoken a similar proto-language.

But it is also plausible that words that sound the same may have come about quite independently, perhaps because these are the sounds that babies find easy to say.