How do you call your dad? by Nina Errey

In many languages the word for dad sounds similar. This led researchers to believe that it was due to a baby’s speech progression. For example sounds like baba or papa are easy to make for a small child. In an extensive family-tree nomenclature database named Kinbank, it was shown that in some indigenous languages, dads are called differently. This highlights how unique indigenous languages are. It also shows that perhaps seemingly disparate languages are similar because they are more connected than we might expect.
This project collected dad words from each continent and featured them in a circular dendrogram. Using R it was possible to perform hierarchical clustering, where the dissimilarity matrix was calculated by categorising each word based on letters and length. Using agglomerative clustering, 4 clusters were observed. One cluster contained varied languages such as Korean and Tamil using the word ‘appa.’ One cluster contained languages such as Spanish and Tajik with similar words like ‘padre’ or ‘padar.’ Romanian and Tsongan were in one cluster with similar words like ‘tata.’ Finally, Mandarin and Moroccan were in a cluster with similar dad words like ‘baba.’
This project would not exist if not for the database being featured in the 2023.04.26 Data is Plural newsletter.