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Fetus Learns Intonations of Mother's Tongue
Date:11/5/2009

French, German newborns show crying patterns that mimic parents' language, study finds

THURSDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Infants who are just a few days old cry with intonation patterns that reflect the language spoken by their parents, new research shows.

The conclusion drawn by German researchers is that fetuses are listening closely to their mothers during the last trimester of pregnancy, laying the groundwork for learning language even before they're born.

By analyzing the sounds of newborn cries, researchers found distinct differences in the intonation patterns of German and French newborns. Put another way, German babies cried in a recognizably "German" way, while French newborns were decidedly "French" in their crying patterns, according to the study published in the Nov. 5 online edition of Current Biology.

"The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life, within the last trimester of gestation," senior study author Kathleen Wermke, of the University of Wurzburg, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist and associate dean for research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called the study "fascinating."

"It's entirely plausible," DiPietro said. "German and French differ in certain fundamental properties. The fact that researchers can show the fetal cry also differs on those fundamental properties is pretty interesting and compelling."

Sorry, Dad. Most of the influence is probably coming from mom, DiPietro said. Even though the fetus can hear their father's voice -- in fact, deeper-pitched sounds such as the male voice travel better through the abdomen than higher-pitched female voices -- the mot
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