French and German babies haveand German accents.
Researchers studied the cries of 60 healthy babies born to families speaking German and.
Babies are listening to their mother’s voice in the last three months of pregnancy.
And copying the patterns of speech when they cry.
The researchers knew that French speakers typically raise their pitch at the ends of words and phrases, while German speakers typically do the opposite.
Dr. Wermke, the study leader from the University of Würzburg, said that babies imitate their mother to attract her and to foster bonding:
‘Thegroup preferentially produced cries with a rising melody contour, whereas the German group preferentially produced falling contours.’
Melody contour is not the only aspect of a mother’s speech that a baby can copy at such a young age.
Infants can also match vowel sounds made by adult speakers – but only from the age of 12 weeks.
At five months old, babies prefer people speaking their own language and dislike foreign accents.
When shown videos of two speakers they stared longest at people speaking their mother tongue.
Older infants (10 months or so) even prefer to accept toys from a woman who spoke their native language!
Lake and Rake
Adult Japanese are consistently defeated by the English pronunciations of “lake” and “rake.”
A 6-month-old in Tokyo perceives the difference between l and r just as easily as babies in Seattle.
But by the time the same infants are a year old, they have lost that ability.
They zero in on the “home” sounds and tune out unfamiliar ones.
The first language keeps fighting off the pronunciations of a new language.
Accent influences adults’ perceptions of competence, social status, intelligence, confidence, guilt, success, and fluency.
Just much sooner than we thought.
It’s not just babies that have accents.
Past studies have shown that cows have different moos depending on what part of Britain they live in.
Cow-d it really be?
Here’s Sir Patrick Stewart imitating cows with different regional British accents.