- Not Exactly Rocket Science
Native language shapes the melody of a newborn baby’s cry
Telling the difference between a German and French speaker isn’t difficult. But you may be more surprised to know that you could have a good stab at distinguishing between German and French babies based on their cries. The bawls of French newborns tend to have a rising melody, with higher frequencies becoming more prominent as the cry progresses. German newborns tend to cry with a falling melody.
These differences are apparent just three days out of the womb. This suggests that they pick up elements of their parents’ language before they’re even born, and certainly before they start to babble themselves.
Birgit Mampe from the University of Wurzburg analysed the cries of 30 French newborns and 30 German ones, all born to