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New research has discovered that as soon as babies are born they cry with the same "accent" as their mothers! This suggests that they begin to learn language in the womb. Previously, it was though that babies recognise sounds from the outside world while they are still in the womb, and that they are settled by the sound of their mother's voice. But, this research goes a bit further and suggests that the mother's voice influences the baby's speech.
The research was carried out in Germany and published in the journal, "Current Biology". The scientists analysed the cries of 60 healthy babies between the age of three and five days old. Half of them were born to French-speaking mothers and the other half were German. The results showed that the French babies cried with a different "accent" compared to the German ones.
The French babies cried with a "raising melody"; the German babies cried with a "falling melody". The pattern, according to the researchers, are consistent with the characteristic differences between the two languages."
Previous research has shown that babies can imitate vowel sounds by 12 weeks. They would physically be unable to do so any earlier. Crying can be done from birth without the need for well developed vocal chords. Babies are motivated to copy the sounds of their mother in order to attract her attention and encourage bonding.