Unexpected finding: Toddlers more responsive to accents of peers than parents

October 25, 2012

Infants are more likely to recognise words spoken in the dialect of their local communities than those used by their parents, psychologists have revealed.

A study at Plymouth University has shown are more receptive to which might be spoken in nurseries and playgroups, even if they are vastly different to those spoken in the home.

Academics said the results were somewhat unexpected, but were a positive sign that was likely to be preserved among future generations.

Dr Caroline Floccia, an Associate Professor in the University's School of Psychology, led the study. She said:

"It might widely, and understandably, be assumed that toddlers pick up their early grasp of language and pronunciation from their parents. But this research shows their is much more important than people might think, even at such an early age. Studies have shown that once they reach the age of five, children are more likely to speak with the accents they are surrounded by at school, but this is the first time it has been shown to apply to much younger children."

The study was carried out by the University's Babylab, which has a database of around 3,000 children from the Plymouth area and has conducted a wide range of research projects looking at children's personal development since it was set up in 2006.

For this study, 20-month-old toddlers were presented with pictures of familiar objects, with their responses analysed as the object's name was read out in either rhotic or non-rhotic accents (English is rhotic when people pronounce the 'r' in farm).

The children included many whose parents spoke in the local (rhotic) Plymouth dialect, but a number whose parents hailed from elsewhere in the UK and some families where there were two accents spoken regularly.

In all circumstances, the infants were more receptive to the local spoken in the community around them rather than any others spoken in the home.

Dr Floccia, who manages the Babylab as well as teaching on the Social and Development Psychology and Contemporary Topics in Psychology courses at Plymouth University, added: "Although infants still spend the majority of their time with their parents, they tend to be influenced more by settings where there are other children present. But regional dialects are something people should definitely be proud of and linguistic diversity makes our everyday environment a much more interesting place to be."

Explore further: Early exposure to language for deaf children

Related Stories

Early exposure to language for deaf children

June 5, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Most agree that the earlier you expose a child to a language, the easier it is for that child to pick it up. The same rules apply for deaf children.

Recommended for you

Children who sleep an hour less at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

August 15, 2017
A study has found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

Low blood sugars in newborns linked to later difficulties

August 8, 2017
A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that shows up by age 4.5 years.

Can breast milk feed a love of vegetables?

August 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Want your preschooler to eat veggies without a fuss? Try eating veggies while you're breast-feeding.

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.