11/11/2009 09:12 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Unborn Babies Can Pick Up Their Mother's Accents

We all know babies can pick up sounds in the womb -- but now it's been discovered they can pick up their mother's accent too.

A new study of French and German newborns found they cried with their mother's accent. I have to say I've heard them on a radio bulletin and couldn't tell the difference but then I'm not specially trained.

The findings do mean that unborn babies are more influenced by outside sound than was previously thought.The cries of 60 healthy babies born to French and German speaking families were studied for a research project led by Kathleen Wermke of the University of Wurzberg in Germany.

She told the BBC they could tell the French babies who cried with a rising accent and the German ones who cried with a falling accent.

"Newborns are highly motivated to imitate their mother's behaviour in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding,'" Wermke said.

She pointed out the research, published in the journal Current Biology, was more meaningful than just an interesting curiosity because it showed that humans are influenced by the first sounds they hear through the womb.

"The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life," Wermke said.

Scientists already knew babies could remember sounds they heard, particularly in the last trimester. There's many a mum with stories of how their babies were settled by music they had regularly listened to during their pregnancy.

In this study, researchers found that babies did not need well-developed vocal chords to reflect the accents around them -- they just need well-coordinated respiratory-laryngeal systems.

Source: Parentdish