Mother Tongue, Indeed: Newborn's Cries Mimic Mama's Accent

By Brett Israel | November 6, 2009 3:43 pm

baby-cryingBabies pick up their parents’ accents while still in the womb, according to a new study. After studying the crying patterns of 30 French and 30 German newborns, researchers concluded that the French newborns cried with a rising “accent” while the German babies’ cries had a falling inflection [BBC News]. The researchers believe that by mimicking their mothers’ inflections, the babies are attempting to form an early bond with their mothers.

Scientists already knew that a baby in the womb can memorize sounds from the outside world, and is particularly sensitive to the melodies of her mother’s language.  But the new research showed an “extremely early” impact of native language and confirmed that babies’ cries are their first proper attempts to communicate specifically with their mothers [Reuters]. The data support the idea that crying seeds language development for infants, according to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Current Biology.

To hear the different between German and French crying babies for yourself, click here to listen.

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Image: flickr / chalky lives

MORE ABOUT: infants, language, learning
  • sceptic

    Honestly there are better things to spend research money on that this nonsense. So if we we know that then what? Of what benefit to us is it if we know that our baby cries in chilapalapa? Besides, even the evidence is spurious what controls are they using to ensure that their observations are accurate?Honestly speaking crying patterns and laughter are unversal.I have heard whites who laugh just as funnily as my villager uncle in Lundazi Zambia. Even the cries we see in movies will be the same.Why isnt there a difference in these patterns when people grow up? When their language skills are supposedly well developed? Sorry but this is B.S.!!

  • zachary

    You admittedly haven’t read the study, and yet declare it B.S.? Also, you assert that speech patterns are universal…you do discredit to the term sceptic.

  • Aqaba

    This is not exactly controversial so the ‘skepticism’ is entirely unfounded. I’m not even sure it’s news.

    It’s a well known fact in language development that children’s “babbling” is particular to the language ‘environment’ they grow up in. Language is a gradual process even in the ‘pre-speech’ phase. Early on, it is at its most unspecific, but rapidly becomes more and more differentiated until they start to speak. And, honestly, any other result would be sensational.


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