Primary Children's Vocabulary In Dagestani Languages


The lexical meaning of a word is determined by various factors of its nature. The word is a denotation of something extra-linguistically related. Nevertheless, each word has different relations with language elements, relations that determine the possibility of using it to denote certain phenomena and the possibility of combining it with other lexical units. We are interested in children's words, which are mainly preserved in literary lexis and have a special stylistic imprint. Lexis of Dagestani languages is not homogeneous, especially since it highlights the main layers of children's vocabulary, such as "baby-like" words, "baby-talk", "parent language", or "language of nannies". The semantic side of onomatopoeic words is gaining attention among language researchers. A small child puts a completely different meaning into a word than an adult person, because he has not yet developed "adult" concepts. A word for adults is most often associated with a certain group of subjects, and a child cannot generalize subjects. A child has his own logic so that his words become situational and multidimensional. Each word refers to a particular notion, image or concept. Children use words in a "frozen form". Initially, children's words have a nominal function, and only later do they become aware of the meaning of a word. Thus, children distinguish only simple nouns, not paying attention to verbs and other semantic units.

Keywords: Dagestani languages, children's vocabulary, primary children's vocabulary, onomatopoeic words


Children say their first words by the time they're one year old. They are similar for children of different nationalities: dada, baba, ma-ma, am-am, etc. Such words are similar in structure to babbling, and mostly based on sound imitation. The words, which a child began to pronounce himself, are usually referred to the active vocabulary. Until the age of one, children understand more words than they can pronounce themselves. These words are part of children's passive vocabulary. The concept of active and passive vocabulary was introduced into lexicographical theory and practice by Scherba (1940).

It is children's words related to active and passive vocabulary that make up the primary children's vocabulary – a realistic vocabulary of a child just beginning to learn their native language. Zeitlin (2000), Lyamina (2005) and other linguists studied active and passive children's vocabulary. They noted the fact that there is a significant gap between the production and perception of speech (Emelianova, 2004).

Problem Statement

Primary children's vocabulary contains a standard set of concepts that can be conventionally divided into several vocabulary groups: names of people surrounding the child, sound imitations, names of animals and birds, toys, food, actions, definitions, question words, etc. Therefore, the main issue of our study is to identify the features of children's vocabulary in Dagestani languages, paying attention to the lexical meaning of the word. According to Shmelev (1977), the lexical meaning of the word is a reflection of a factual reality: an object, a process, a feature of an object or a process and a relationship.

Research Questions

A long process of mastering a clear subject matter and specific meaning of a word by a child continues to be specific. Therefore, the subject of this study is the peculiarities of onomatopoeia, children's vocabulary, or "nanny language".

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the comparative study is to identify the peculiarities of the primary children's vocabulary of Dagestani languages.

A word is known to be a two-way unit, i.e. it has sound and meaning. There is a close and inseparable relationship between a sound and meaning of a word for speakers. By saying a word, we evoke an image of a certain object (action, phenomenon) in our minds. A small child puts a completely different meaning into a word than an adult person, because he has not yet developed "adult" concepts. A word for adults is most often associated with a certain group of subjects, and a child cannot generalize subjects. A child has his own logic so that his words become situational and multidimensional. Each word refers to a particular notion, image or concept. Children use words in a "frozen form". Initially, children's words have a nominal function, and only later do they become aware of the meaning of a word. Therefore, the purpose of this study is the following: 1) to identify the meaning of a word in the group "babysitting language"; 2) to describe the substantive characteristics of a word, its meaning and signs; 3) to consider the peculiarities of children's vocabulary interpretation.

Research Methods

Descriptive, comparative methods were applied in the study of linguistic material, allowing characterizing linguistic phenomena in interlinguistic and inter-dialectal interaction and being topical due to weak etymological development of vocabulary of the languages under study.


In modern scientific literature, a word is considered a sign indicating the result of cognition and thought. Words are basic language units. There are several hundred definitions of this unit, and the article discusses only some of them. Shmelev (1977) describes a word as such a language unit that represents phonetic and morphological, as well as lexical and semantic aspects of a word. Thus, it can be characterized differently, taking into account various features of its nature.

The onomatopoeic word is, most frequently, a sound imitation, which arose from phonetic resemblance to non-verbal sound complexes (Prokhorov, 1974; Zhuravlev & Barbot, 2007). Onomatopoeic vocabulary is always directly related to bodies or objects – sources of sound. For example, verbs of Avar language such as k"va-k"vaze "to crock", myavdize "to meow", k"u-k"udize "to crow", and others.

The language is delivered through organs of speech, and the perception and understanding of spoken language is done mainly by hearing. The beginning of productive speech is usually considered to be the moment when the first words appear (8-18 months), the so-called "children's", "babbling" words (Tagirova, 2015). They are words-sentences expressing a thought (Paramonova, 2004). A child can use the same word to make a complaint or request to give him a toy, say "hold me", etc. In the future, children have new words, which they gradually begin to associate with each other, trying to build simple sentences.

The onomatopoeic vocabulary differs in many languages, and these differences are only partly explained by differences in phonological systems. The transmission of sounds produced by the most common animals is of particular interest in this respect, as it can be traced back to many languages of different structure and origin. "Any language has a certain number of so-called 'children's words' used by adults to communicate with small children and characterized by specific features of phonetic appearance and use" (Chirikba, 1991, p. 92).

Zeitlin (2000) notes that a comparison of the first fifty words of different children shows some patterns in the formation of primary children's vocabulary. Taking into account all individual differences among children, there is some standard set of notions that should be expressed in the primary children's vocabulary, highlighting "ideas that are always verbalized" in the children's speech.

This layer of vocabulary, referred to by Chirikba (1991) as "a specialized children's vocabulary", can be conventionally divided into the following main vocabulary groups:

1. Animate world or human world:

11 People surrounding the child (person):

"mom" ebel – baba, ba (Avar); aba-baba, ba (Dargin); nin-nenij (Rutul);

"dad" emen-dada, da (Avar); dudesh, ada-dada, da (Dargin); did-dedij (Rutul);

"grandmother" kӀodo// kӀudu – dahӀababa// dahӀaba// hӀaba// ba (Avar); hula aba – hulaj// aj (Dargin);

"grandfather" kӀudi – dahӀadada// dahӀadadi//hӀadada// hӀada// di (Avar); hula ttuttesh – huttush – huttu – ttush (Dargin);

"uncle" daci – aci// ci (Avar); acci – cci (Dargin);

"aunt" unk"acho// unk"achu – unk"a, ada// da (Avar); abadzi – abazi, abzi// zi (Dargin);

"child" l"imer// g'itӀinabl"imer – g'itӀi// itӀi, nya// la (Avar); vishtӀasi – nana// na (Dargin);

"Patimat" PatӀimat – PatӀi// Pai// AtӀi// AtӀu (Avar); PatӀimat – PatӀi// TӀi (Dargin);

1.2. Birds and animals (fauna):

"cat" keto// ketu – icciko, icci, myagӀ-gӀ-u-u// magӀ// a-a-au (Avar); kkata//gata – gici, cici// ci (Dargin); ga't – bisij (Rutul);

"dog" g'oj// g've – gӀav-gӀav// gӀava-gӀava// gӀava// gӀava-va, vog'-vog'/ vop-vop (Avar); hya// hve – g'av-g'av // g'av, av (Dargin); tyla – g'aӀvyj (Rutul);

"hen" gӀankӀo// gӀankӀu – k"o-k"o-k"o// k"o-k"o// ko-ko(Avar); gӀyargӀya – gӀu-gӀu// gӀu (Dargin);

"rooster" hӀeleko// hӀeleku – u-u-u-u-u (Avar); dag"a// tak"a – ku-ku-gӀu// u-u (Dargin);

"raven" g"edo// g"edu – k"vg"// k"veg"-k"vag"//k"a-k"agӀ (Avar); k"yana – k"vya//k"ya (Dargin);

"horse" chu – chu, hӀi-i-i, hӀ-hӀi, i-o-o// go-go (Avar); urchi – uchi, hӀi-i-i// hӀi-hӀi//hӀi (Dargin);

"frog" k"verk" – k"va-k"va-k"va// k"a-k"a (Avar); pyaspyasag//gӀyatӀa – tӀyar-tӀyar, tӀyar// tӀya (Dargin);

"goose" h"az – k"a-k"a-k"a// ga-ga-ga (Avar); k"az – k"a-k"a-k"a// ga-ga (Dargin);

"cow" gӀaka – m-m-m, m-mu, mu-u-u (Avar); k'yal – m-m-m, m-mu, mu-mu//mu (Dargin); za'r – mu-u (Rutul);

"duck" ordek// urdek – g"-g"-g", g"r-g"r-g"r, g"ra-g"ra, ur (Avar); byatӀ – k"g"r, g"ri-g"ri, g"i (Dargin);

"donkey" hӀama – g'agӀ, i-i-i-a, hӀi, hӀa, ama (Avar); emhӀe// hӀemhӀe – hӀa"-hӀa", a-i (Dargin); jima'l – gy-shikӀyj (Rutul);

"wolf" jima'l – gy-shikӀyj (Avar); becӀ – g'av, vav, av-v-v (Dargin);

"goat" cӀcӀe – be-e-e-e (Avar); k'yaca – be-e-e-e (Dargin);

"baby goat" burutӀ – gidi-gidi (Avar); gezhba – gidi, di (Dargin);

"sheep" chah"u – me-e-e, me-e-e-e, gi-gir (Avar); chah"u//maza – megӀej// me-e-e, me-e-e-e (Dargin); chӀabal – baӀ"aӀ"yj (Rutul);

2. Inanimate world or the world of things:

2.1. Toys:

"doll" yasikӀo// yasikӀu – si, lya (Avar); nachi – nach, chi (Dargin);

"book" tӀekh' – bva// bva-va (Avar); zhuz – zhuzh// zhu (Dargin);

"dummy" mocӀcӀo// mocӀcӀu// mocӀcӀohӀru – mpӀa-mpӀa// mpӀu-mpӀu (Avar); mama – mammi// myam// mi (Dargin);

2.2. Clothes, shoes:

"pants" tӀazhu – azhu (Avar); shalbar – tis-tis// tis (Dargin);

"dress" gorde// gurde – gode (Avar); hӀeva – ava// va (Dargin);

"hat" hӀeva – ava// va (Avar); k'apӀa – gӀepӀa// pӀa (Dargin);

"shoes" h'it// h'ital – iti, ital// itiyal (Avar); dabri – dabbi// dabi, bi (Dargin);

2.3. Food:

"food" kven – ma-ma (Avar); berkala – am-am// am (Dargin); ulesdy – am (Rutul);

"water" l"im – ahӀ (Avar); shin – ninni// nin, ni (Dargin);

"egg" hono – no-no, hӀono (Avar); gidgari – giggi// gi-gi (Dargin);

"butter" nah – na// nahӀ (Avar); burt – but// ut (Dargin);

"bread" ched – mama (Avar); k'acӀ – pappa// ppa (Dargin); h'yv – bebij (Rutul);

2.4. Means of transport:

"car" mashina – du-du, bi-bi (Avar); mashin – zhi-zhi// zhizh (Dargin); mashin – bi-bipI (Rutul);

"train" poezd – tuh-tuh-tuh (Avar; Dargin);

2.5. Things at home:

"door" nucӀcӀa – cӀcӀa (Avar); unza// uncca – cca (Dargin);

"key" kӀul// kӀulal – chӀikӀ (Avar); umh'u// unccuh'ala – h'u (Dargin);

"phone" telefon – alo, avo (Avar); gӀyalu, avu (Dargin);

"garbage" h"ubl"i – gӀov, fu-u-u-u// pu-u-u (with gestures) (Avar); gӀya-gӀya, fu-u-u (Dargin); rug-chӀyӀh – daӀ" (Rutul);

3. Natural phenomena:

"rain" cӀcӀad – kӀap-kӀap-kӀap, tӀap-tӀap-tӀap, tӀa-tӀa-tӀa (Avar); zab – kӀantӀ-kӀantӀ, kӀatӀ-kӀatӀ, atӀ-atӀ (Dargin);

"thunder" g"ug"aj – dvag", vag", da-da-da (Avar); k"uk"u – g"ug"u, g"ug", g"u-g"u (Dargin);

"lightning" piri – pahkh, parhkh (Avar); lyamcӀ// pyar – parh, pahkh (Dargin);

"frost" cӀcӀoroj – v-v-v-j (with gestures), d-r-r-r (Avar); bugӀyardesh – kkih', h'-h' (Dargin);

4. Object characteristics and human traits:

4.1. Assessments:

"hot" buhӀarab – buhӀ, a-a (Avar); bucӀarsi – is-is// is (Dargin); bikӀerdy – is (Rutul);

"tasty" tӀagӀamab – m-m-m-m-m, mpӀ (Avar); tӀyagӀyamla – myam-myam, m-myam (Dargin);

"beautiful" bercinab – va-a-a (Avar); zhagasi – vu-u-u (Dargin); bytӀrad – dejdy (Rutul);

"bad" kveshab – vu-u-u-u, gӀav, gӀava, gӀov (Avar); vajsi – vya-ya-ya (Dargin); pisdy – daӀ"dy (Rutul);

"good" l"ikӀab – dahӀala, dahӀ, da-a (with gestures) (Avar); gӀyahӀsi – dyajla// dyaj (Dargin);

4.2. Size:

"small" g'itӀinab – g'itӀich// itӀi (Avar); bishtӀasi – bitӀul// tӀu (Dargin);

"big" kӀudiyab – kӀudi// udi//odo, va-a-a (with gestures) (Avar); halasi// halal// hu (Dargin);

5. Actions and processes:

5.1. The ones associated with food:

"to eat" kvanaze – nam-nam-nam, ma-ma-ma-ma-ma (Avar); ukes – nyam-nyam, myam-myam, am-am (Dargin); ules – am-am (Rutul);

"to drink" g'ek"eze – mpӀa-mpӀa-mpӀa, ahӀ e – "give me something to drink" (Avar); uzhes – pekhӀ-pӀekhӀ, pӀekhӀ (Dargin);

"open" rag'ize – 'i', 'ize (Avar); abh'es – gӀyap-gӀyap// gӀyap (Dargin);

"to suck on something" cӀcӀunkӀize – mpӀu-mpӀu-mpӀu (Avar); chӀapӀikӀes – chӀapӀ-chӀapӀ// cӀyap (Dargin);

5.2. The ones associated with movement and taking a walk:

"to dance" k'urdize – dar-dari, dar-dari-dari-dari (Avar); ulh"es – isikӀes// is-is-is (Dargin);

"to jump" kӀancӀize – vu-g'a' (Avar); tӀyahӀikӀes – tӀyahӀ-tyahӀ, tӀya-tӀya (Dargin);

"to take a walk" k"vatӀireine – buba (Avar); shadivashes – bubba (Dargin); g"a"dyh'yn – buba" (Rutul);

5.3. The ones associated with sleeping:

"to fall asleep" k'izhize – a-a-ahkh, ohkh, o-o-ohkh (Avar); uses – huh-h (Dargin); sahyn – daj-daj (Rutul);

"to sleep" ohkhg'abize – ohkh-lo-lo (Avar); uses// huhikӀes, huh-h (Dargin);

5.4. The ones associated with falling:

"to fall" bortize – tӀvap, pӀah (Avar); kajkes//pappikes – pap, bap (Dargin);

"fell" gӀodovkkana// gӀuduvkkana – pӀah, tӀvah, bap, bapana (Avar); kajkib – bap, pap (Dargin);

5.5. Something disappears:

"it's not here" g'echӀo – 'a-'a, 'o-'o (with gestures) (Avar); agara – pa"-pa", pa" (Dargin);

5.6. The ones associated with swimming:

"to swim" churdize – chӀap-chӀap (Avar); vizes – chyap-chyap (Dargin); h'dea'chӀun – chӀapӀ-chӀapӀ (Rutul);

"to take a bath" churize – chap-chap (Avar); dyahӀices – chyap-chyap (Dargin);

5.7. Physical needs:

"to pee" pishch, pshch (Avar); chih', dur-r-r (Dargin);

"to poop" gӀa-gӀa, 'a-'a (Avar); gӀya-gӀya// ihӀ (Dargin);

5.8. State of the body:

"it hurts, to be painful" untize – g'u-u-u, g'fu-u-u (someone is blowing) (Avar)l; izes – chchishies, chchish (Dargin);

5.9. Some actions and intentions of exclamation and persuasion:

"give me something" k'e – e (Avar); ga – a", a (Dargin);

"hit me" k'abe – da", da'-da' (Avar); byah"ya –gӀyati-gӀyati, gӀyat (Dargin);

"Here you go" bose – ma, ma-ma-ma (Avar); buca// kasa// ma – ma, ma-ma (Dargin);

"I won't do that" g'abilaro – 'u-'u, '-'u, '-' (Avar); hӀebiris – uu, u"-u (Dargin); g'a"asdish – "a-"a (Rutul);

6. Utterances and phrases:

6.1. Consent or denial:

"yes" u – 'u (with a nod) (Avar); gӀe – g'a-g'a, a (Dargin);

"no" guro – 'u-'u, '-'u, '-' (Avar); agara – uu, u"-u (Dargin); g'a"asdish – "a-"a (Rutul);

6.2. You can't, judgment of what you did:

"You can't" beg'ularo – no-no-no (Avar); asuhӀebirar – nu-nu-nu (Dargin); ma" – nu-nu-nu (Rutul);

"You shouldn't have!" vaj-vaj-vaj – ya-ya-yaj (with gestures) (Avar); vaj-vaj-vaj – yaj-yaj (Dargin);

6.3. Etiquette phrases:

"Goodbye, bye" k"omekhkhl"ikӀ – ba (with gestures) (Avar); barhӀigӀyahӀdirab – ba-ba (Dargin);

"Thank you" barkala – ba (with a nod) (Avar); barkalla – ba (Dargin);

7. Words pointing to a place:

"It's there" doba – vo-o-o (with gestures) (Avar); itab – ta-a-a (Dargin);

"It's up there" tӀasa – vu-u-u (with gestures) (Avar); ikӀab – kӀa-a-a (Dargin);

"It's at the bottom of" g"ork'a – u-u-u (with gestures) (Avar); ihab – ha-a-a (Dargin).


The children's vocabulary of various ethnic groups is represented to a different extent, both in quantitative terms and by the presence or absence of special children's words. It can be observed from the presented number of lexemes that the number of vocabularies is approximately the same between the Avar and Dargin children's vocabulary, while there are fewer vocabularies in the Rutulus vocabulary.

Such words are dominated by onomatopoeic words. There are sound complexes in children's speeches that sound like words, but they do not have meaning ("dummy" mocӀcӀo// mocӀcӀu// mocӀcӀohӀru – mpӀa-mpӀa// mpӀu-mpӀu);

The children's vocabulary of the languages under study contains a considerable number of innovations – words created to communicate with children (Avar language: gidi "baby goat", gӀavu "wolf", gi-gir "sheep"; Dargin language: pa" "no", ci '"cat", tIya "frog", gIya-gIya "something bad"; Rutul language: bebij "bread", bapyj "porridge" and others) or modified words of the adult language (Dargin language: gӀepӀa "hat", gigi "egg", pӀekhӀ "to drink"; Rutul language: didaj "father", lalyg "scarf" and others). It is when a child learns the language systems that word innovations are created. The primary vocabulary of a child in Dagestani languages includes the units similar to "adult": 1) parallel to "adult" words (si, lya – yasikӀo// yasikӀu "doll" (Avar); k"ya – k"yana "raven", mik'i – muk'ara "baby sheep", gici – gata "cat", gӀepӀa – k'apӀa "hat", gigi – gidgari "egg" (Dargin) and others); 2) words that are not similar to "adult" words (bva// bva-va – tӀekh' "book" (Avar); mu – k'yal "cow", ppa – k'acӀ 'bread", am – ukes "to eat" (Dargin) and others). As the sampling shows, there are more so-called "parallel" words in quantitative terms than "dissimilar" words with "adult" words.

Two-word sentences like dadaohkh (Avar) – dadahuh (Dargin) – dedij daj-daj (Rutul) A child usually is able to say "father is sleeping" by the age of 1.5 years. After a couple of months, sentences of three, four or more words appear in the speech of a child (dada(ca) ag"url"u (Avar) – dadagӀepӀa tis (Dargin) "father found the hat" – baba mama am// gӀam (Avar) – ba ppaam (Dargin); "mother ate the bread".

"Children's" words also have different meanings in different contexts in the languages studied:

Avar language: chӀap-chӀap//chap-chap – 1) "to swim"; 2) "to take a bath"; 3) "swimming";

Dargin language: gӀic – 1) apple; 2) puncture; 3) to puncture; g"ug" – 1) thunder, 2) fighting; kkih' – 1) cold, 2) wind, 3) heat, 4) hot (Yusupov, 2017);

Rutul language: is – 1) painful, 2) hot, 3) to burn oneself (Ibragimova, 2018).

Thus, children's vocabulary is constantly being enriched not only in quantitative but also in qualitative terms. The first words to appear in the children's speech denote a specific action observed by the child. The child talks about what is happening here, now and what he is witnessing.


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Otsomieva-Tagirova, Z. M., Yusupov, K. A., & Ibragimova, M. O. (2021). Primary Children's Vocabulary In Dagestani Languages. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1231-1238). European Publisher.