linguoboy wrote:It's interesting to me how this term gets treated almost as a name among speakers of American English. I know native speakers of NAE whose spoken dialects differ minimally but who respective call their their grandmothers "Oma", "Meemaw", "Mémé", "Nana", "Nonna", "Abueli", "Yaya", "Bubbie", and countless other variations.
Do you know if the cultural background of these speakers affects which term they use? I would imagine that even if a speaker only speaks NAE, they are more likely to use "Oma" if they're of German or Austrian background, while "Abueli" would probably be used by speakers who are more of a Latin American or Spanish background. I associate "Yaya" with Yiddish (correctly or incorrectly, not sure why) and "Nonna" with Italian. I'm not sure about "Mémé", though I think of "Meemaw" as being German as well (and of course, I also think of The Big Bang Theory
). For "Bubbie", I don't know where the name/term comes from, but interestingly I have an aunt whose name is "Bubbie" (or it might be spelled "Bubby"; I've never quite known the spelling of her name). She was (first) cousins with my mom's mother - was because my maternal grandmother isn't alive today, but in South Asian tradition, we just call her "aunt".
vijayjohn wrote:That seems to be what's happened to kinship terms in general in at least some Indian languages, including Malayalam. In my family, chechi [ˈt͡ʃeːt͡ʃi] literally means 'older sister', so there are many chechis both inside and outside the family - Ammini Chechi, Miriam Chechi, Bindu Chechi, Sindhu Chechi, Leela Chechi, Sheila Chechi, Ashley Chechi, Shobha Chechi...yet there is only one person out of all the people on both sides of the family who is just "Chechi." Everyone calls her Chechi.
There's something like that going on in my family too. I can't recall the exact relational specifics now, but I know there's some (distant to/from me) family member who is just called "Thambi". Thambi /t̪ambi/ is the Tamil word for younger brother. In contrast, just like with "Chechi", there are other family members who are called given name
+ "Thambi", which is in line with how you would normally use the term. I can't recall now if the same happens with "Akka" / akːaː/, which is Tamil for older sister. That is, if, in context, it's clear which family member known as given name
+ "Akka" is being talked about, then just the term "akka" would be used as "Akka", a replacement for her given name. But, I don't recall any person known just as "Akka".
I also don't think the same usage of replacing the given name by the relational term is ever applied to "Mama" /maːmaː/ or "Mami" /maːmi/, Tamil for uncle and aunt respectively on the mother's side (though specifically, only for your mom's brothers and their wives). This replacement does apply though to "Peri(y)amma" /peɾi(j)amːaː/ which literally means 'big mother' but is used for your mom's oldest sister. What's interesting, now that I analyze it, is that my mom uses similar kinship terms to refer to her two older brothers - "Peri(y)anna" /peɾi(j)aɳːaː/ and "Chinnanna" /t͡ʃinːəɳːaː/, 'big older brother' and 'small older brother' respectively. However, my siblings and I call them by their given name
+ "Mama", whereas for her older sister (she only has one sister), we call her "Periamma", even to her face, not just in reference.
One last thing: more in line with what linguoboy
's experiences are, Tamilians do use their family's various terms for grandmother and grandfather as names. I think this is usually because the term used denotes which side of the family you're referring to. For example, my family's kinship terms for grandmothers were, "appamma" /apːəmːaː/ and "ammamma" /amːəmːaː/, which literally mean 'father('s) mother' and 'mother('s) mother'. My grandfathers both passed before my parents got married, but if they had been alive, we would've then called them "appappa" and "ammappa" in the same vein. As such, we used those terms as capitalized names, just as my dad used "Amma" and "Pappa" whenever referring to his parents and my mom used "Mommy" and "Daddy" (which is what she called them growing up) when referring to hers.
I guess when it's obvious which family member is being referred to, kinship terms can more easily take the place of proper names, probably because doing so is a form of respect?