A team of German scientists at the University of Würzburg found the pitch and tone of a newborn’s wail differ according to the native language of their mum.
They studied children from Germany, Asia and Cameroon in Africa to see how their cries were different.
“The crying of neonates whose mothers speak a tonal language (Cameroonian, Chinese, Thai and others) is characterised by a significantly higher melodic variation as compared to, for example, German neonates,” said Professor Kathleen Wermke, who led the research.
The research, published in the ‘Journal of Voice’, concluded babies begin learning language a lot earlier than it was previously thought.
The scientists found a child’s cry is “more melodic” if their mum speaks a “tonal language”, where a sound pronounced at either a high or low pitch can have different meanings.
For example, Cameroonian children in Africa had a higher interval between the highest and the lowest tone than the German children.
They noticed German children’s cries sounded “more like chanting” with less melodic variation.
“Building blocks for the development of the future language are acquired from the moment of birth, and not only when infants begin to babble, or to produce their first words,” Wermke added.
Find out more about the study in the video above.