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Newborn babies cry in native tongue, study says

From almost the very beginning, the cries of newborn babies already bear traits of the language their parents speak, according to a new study.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

From almost the very beginning, the cries of newborn babies already bear traits of the language their parents speak, according to a new study.

Detailed in a new study in the journal Current Biology, fetuses are able to memorize auditory stimuli from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy and are sensitive to melody contour in music and language.

The study confirmed two things: first, that newborns prefer their mother's voice over other voices; second, that the emotion by intonation is perceived.

The study also found that babies can distinguish between languages with different rhythms and pitch changes.

In the study, researchers found that 30 French newborns tend to cry with rising melody patterns that slowly increase in pitch from the beginning to the end. In comparison, 30 German newborns prefer falling melody patterns. The findings mirror the actual rhythms of each of those languages.

In other words: infants begin picking up elements of language in the womb, long before they can physically reproduce those sounds themselves.

If you're wondering why your newborn baby hasn't expressed your native tongue, it might be because it doesn't yet have command over its voicebox. Once they do, babies try to mimic their mother -- perhaps to attract her attention, according to the study's authors, scientists based at universities and research institutes in Germany and France.

That also means development of spoken language is based in melody -- the same thing that holds music together.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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