Toddlers more likely to pick up local regional accents than those used by their parents at home


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The Independent Online

Toddlers are more likely to pick up their regional accent than those used by their parents at home, according to new research published today.

So, if you are a middle to upper class southerner who happens to have settled in Manchester, your children could be speaking with a Lancastrian accent well before they start primary school.

The findings are based on a study by the University of Plymouth’s “Babylab” - which has a database of around 3,000 children whose development it has monitored until they start primary school.

For this study, they presented 20-month-old toddlers with a series of familiar objects - which were described in both the local dialect and the accent spoken at home,

The children included many whose parents who spoke with a Plymouth accent but also a number who came from elsewhere in the UK.

All of them were more receptive to the local dialect of the community around them.

“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,” said Dr Caroline Floccia, an associate professor in Plymouth University’s School of Psychology - who led the study.

“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 social context 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.”