Parents’ Accents Affect Babies

A new study reveals that multi-accent language exposure affects word form recognition in infancy. The study, published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, found that babies raised in homes where they hear one language spoken with different accents, the babies recognized words dramatically differently than babies who heard little variation in accents. This demonstrates that daily exposure to multiple accents strongly impacts infants’ linguistic skills ad word form recognition.

It only makes sense that multiple accents help develop language skills in infants. In order for babies to be able to recognize certain words, it is important for them, for instance, to understand those words across different contexts. That could be extended, to hearing words across accents. Researchers pose the questions, “What does that mean for children who are routinely exposed to multiple variants of their native language? Imagine, for instance, a child born to an American English-speaking mother and an Irish English-speaking father. While her mother may label the yellow vehicle that takes her big brother to school as a bus, her father's pronunciation will sound more like boss, leaving the child to deduce that mother's bus and father's boss refer to the same object even though her mother's pronunciation of bus and boss label two separate referents. How does language development in this child differ from that in a child growing up in a family where both parents speak in the same accent?”

The researchers took two groups of monolingual English-learning 12.5-month-olds. One of the groups was exposed to the dominant regional accent while the other group was exposed to multiple variants of accents. The amount of English that the babies heard was the same across the two groups. The children heard words typically known to that age group, such as daddy, diaper, kitty, cup, shoe along with nonsense words such as shammy, kie, koddy, and koth. The researchers measured the infants’ recognition by monitoring their head movements, since children will often turn their heads when recognizing words in their languages. The results indicated that the children who heard just a single accent reacted to the real words only, while the group that heard multiple accents turned their heads at both real and nonsense words.

This suggests that the children who hear multiple accents are learning words at the same rate as those who are hearing only one accent, but they need more contextual information to recognize words because they do not assume all words will be spoken in the local accent.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hearing the same words being spoken with different accents may also contribute to the child’s understanding that words are only symbols for things, that they are not inherently part of an object. This happens with bilingual children, and is beneficial to them intellectually.

  2. And when you have several languages spoken at home or one spoken with different accents . The kid grows smarter and the hearing capabilities are much better

  3. Children are affected not only by the emphasis of the parents but also by what the parents say to the children. Keeping in touch with your child is very important. After all, you are the only person the child can trust. You must protect him when he is sad. And you should monitor his feelings and help him when you see what is hard for him. When my husband and I filling for divorce in California, we didn’t pay enough attention to our daughter. Since it seemed to us that we feel it’s much worse than our daughter. But then, when she got older, I began to notice that we were losing contact. She began to rude to me. When we went with her to a psychologist, she said that her poor health began after our divorce. We lost time when our daughter needed us. Don’t repeat our mistakes.

  4. Thank you for the article. Actually I have heard the same things. It’s always hard to predict what will happen to your beloved kids. Parents, please, take care of your children. So many couples split up because they simply have no idea how to handle kids-related issues.

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