Newborns seem to be getting smarter and smarter by the minute. First, fetuses learn how to distinguish external sounds during the last trimester; then infants start sending explicit messages with their cries; and now, we discover that babies are born with regional accents.
An international team of researchers studied the cries of 60 newborns, 30 of which were German and 30 of which were French. Across the board, the sound of the babies’ cries followed a clear pattern. According to Reuters, “French newborns tend to cry with a rising melody contour, while their German neighbors prefer a falling melody shape — patterns which the researchers said fit with characteristic differences between the two languages.”
It makes sense that a baby would learn to mimic her parents’ voices as early on as possible, in order to better communicate with them. But little do these bundles of joy know that a blood-curdling wail is always an effective attention-getting device, whether in German or French.