Babies are born into the world with a number of things. Tiny fingernails. Angelic curls on their head. An endless, burning hunger for milk.
And, according to one expert, accents (apparently).
TikTok teacher Laurie Knox (@knoxstudy) shared the theory in a video that’s grabbed the attention of people online and has us pondering whether our babies or friend’s babies have an accented cry.
Knox shared a study conducted by Dr Kathleen Wermke, head of Würzburg University Clinic’s Center for Pre-Speech Development and Developmental Disorders, which was reported in the New York Times.
The German researcher looked at the cries of 60 newborns – 30 were French, the other 30 were German, and she found that the cries of the French newborns typically had a rising intonation, while the cries of the German babies typically had a falling intonation, mimicking both languages.
During infancy, babies experiment with a variety of different sounds, gurgles and cries, but this research shows that, even from such a young age, they’re already affected by their parents’ mother tongue.
“In 2017, she showed that the cries of Swedish newborn babies had a higher melodic complexity than their German counterparts,” explains Knox.
“This is because Swedish is a pitch-accent language whereas German is a stress-accent language.” The team found that Swedish babies had a delightful “sing-song” cry versus other babies.
“In 2019, she demonstrated that babies whose mothers speak a tonal language, like Mandarin, exhibit a wider variation in melody than their non-tonal German counterparts”, explains Knox.
If this isn’t concrete evidence that babies are being nosy Nellies in the womb and picking up on and mimicking our voices, I don’t know what is.
Commenters were quick to chime in on Knox’s video with their hilarious takes, with someone writing, “Danish babies crying in ÆØÅ.”
Someone else agreed with the theory, writing: “I’m an English speaker living in Denmark. People told me my babies sounded different.”