accent tag
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Where do children’s accents come from?

Children’s accents are funny things.

accent tag

I wouldn’t class myself as having an accent that was recognisable as coming from a specific area. Having my formative years living in Windsor (therefore speaking very well, some would say posh, although it wasn’t received pronounciation), followed by years around the Banbury area, plus another 3 up north in Lancashire, I probably have a bit of a mixed bag.  I do cringe when I hear myself on the phone as I do probably sound quite slapdash with my whatever accent I have.

The OH doesn’t really have an accent either.  He’s born and bred pretty much in the area we’re in now, so although he probably has a bit of a ‘farmer’ relaxed twang, again, it’s a non-accent.

So it’s intriguing to work out how N will end up speaking, and where on earth he gets some of his current pronounciation.

Some of his speech is obviously down to not quite being able to say certain sounds, so while he can say ‘Julie’ clearly, ‘Jane’ sounds like ‘chain’ (or so his cousins were laughing about the other day).   And others are down to his lack of understanding/learning of the correct tense.  So one of his favourite phrases is ‘I are’ , when he means ‘I am’.  All very cute, but it is amusing that after him saying that for a long time, he’s still not worked out that it should be ‘I am’.

When our niece was younger, we all used to be amused by some of her accent until she went to school.  We used to joke that she had an Oxfordshire, ‘yokel’ accent.  When she said words like my bike or cake, it sounded like ‘moiy biiyke’ and ‘caaake’.  It seems that N’s speech is starting the same way with ‘myyne’ for mine and ‘biiyke’

It’s so strange, as no-one in the family, and none of the nursery staff pronounce words in a similar way, so I have no idea where it’s coming from.

Whether it’s a standard way that children experiment with sounds?  Or if it’s how they hear things?  Or whether children’s accents just naturally lengthen words and therefore they are spoken sounding a bit odd.

It’s just a mystery to me where he’s picking it up from, when you’d expect children to pick up accents from the people they’re around day in day out.

Reading around the internet, there’s not that much around explaining how children pick up accents – one study suggested nursery or preschool rather than parents, siblings or school was a major influence.  Over at the Science of Accents, it explains that children lose the ability to hear and pick up accents fairly young.

Hopefully he’ll lose it, as his cousin did once she started school, although in the meantime we can have a bit of a giggle while helping him with the correct pronounciation.

Do your children have any amusing accent quirks?  Do they change accent frequently?

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  1. This is a really interesting subject. My brother and I had really messed up accents as kids. Our parents are from Yorkshire but my Dad was in the RAF so we moved around a lot and picked up things everywhere. I went to a military school in Cyprus at one point so there were children from all over the UK, I’m sure you can imagine the variation of accents going on there.

    1. Wow, really moved around then. Like my mum as her dad was RAF too, and she also lived in Cyprus as a child. It guess it’s what does the accent end up being once you’re settled in one place.
      Thanks for commenting

  2. This is such an interesting thing to talk about.. though since I don’t really have a kid or anything I also haven’t thought about it.

  3. This is a really interesting post and is something we have been discussing recently because of our move to the West Country. Ross and I are both Berkshire/Surrey but Grace is starting to pronounce words like ‘dance’ differently! I am accepting of it. Ross not so much! Thank you for linking to PoCoLo 🙂 x

    1. It is a really interesting topic. I think it gets everyone talking and lots of people have strong ideas either way. It’s amazing how quickly children pick up accents on change of location – I guess they’ve had less time to have their existing accent ingrained than parents do.
      Thanks for commenting.

  4. I have found that little ones pick up accents very quickly, I think many times they also have a language all there own. My nephew spoke like no one else in our family, we through he was a genius! They do grow out of it.

    1. You’re probably right about them having their own garbling language at this age. It’s funny how they pick up everything really easily, so it’s probably them getting used to hearing and translating everything around them

  5. My sons language is generally a mystery to me actually. English is a second language in my country and we are more expose to american english. When he talks I understand him but when we are skyping my mother they said they cant understand him anymore. =P #pocolo

    1. So hard when you’re not with children as their accents change as it takes a while to adjust your ear to listen in to them
      Thanks for popping by

  6. We live in the middle of the south & north.. I don’t think my kids really have accents.. when we lived in nc, my oldest had a bit of a southern accent.. i want a British accent, those are the best.. haha

  7. It was so interesting to hear about your accent. I’m from the U.S. Midwest where we do not have thick accents. Most anchors learn Midwestern accents to be able to be more easily understood around the U.S.

    1. I’ve heard that about the ‘standard’ accent in the US. In the UK, it always used to be Received Pronounciation, but nowadays there’s a real mix of regional accents reading the news on radio or tv.

      1. Moving around does kind of remove the strength of an accent.

        Makes me laugh about British accents, because there isn’t one – and they’re all quite specific and recognisable regional accents to those in the UK. Guess it’s the same as in the US – we find it hard to recognise the different US twangs (apart from maybe southern which is quite distinctive

  8. I live in the US, and am originally from Tennessee (VERY distinctive accent). We moved to a state I would classify as ‘non accent’ since there are people from all parts of the country here. My accent has slowly faded away. My daughter, however, has one of the single most adorable Tennessee accents you will ever hear and it is VERY pronounced. I think it is very interesting how children develop their speech patterns. . .

    1. It’s such a shame when accents fade, but in a way I guess it’s a natural way of fitting in/not standing out, and absorbing some of the accent in the new area. Must be strange having children who have a totally different accent to parent, but probably more common now people move around a lot more than years ago

  9. My son and I just had this conversation tonight. And we were trying to figure out if WE had an accent or not. LOL

    1. Fort?! They do come out with random ones. I swear when N asks me a question ‘you want this?’ offering food, he sounds like someone trying to imitate an indian accent. Think it’s more the grammar than the pronounciation

    1. Ooh that is random. Although sometimes when I was younger people used to ask me if I was from the US, and I could hear just a couple of words that sounded slightly American. think it must have been all the films I used to watch!

  10. Accents are a funny thing! Moving from KY to SC it is hard to figure out what people are saying sometimes and you have to ask them to repeat things it gets embarassing!

    1. There must be a massive variation in the US with the size of the country, and then throw in Canada into the mix as well. Even in the UK the variation is amazing, when you think how small we are over here.

  11. Tragically they also get cues from TV, but I think mainly when they start mixing with other children it’s their peers who make the difference. We’ll love them whatever, but they have an innate desire to fit into the tribe, and albeit unknowingly they definitely fall into pattern with the other children. From what I can see they don’t grow out of it either – it just escalates when they reach teenagehood and form an entire new shared language! 😀

    1. Oh good god, teenage monosyllabic ‘conversations’. Not looking forward to those! think you’re right about tv, films and also celebs talking. Much more influential that when we were children. Thanks for popping by

  12. I find myself copying the accent of people I am with if I don’t check myself. I am from Staffordshire but people always think I am a brummie! I always correct how my children pronounce words so even if they have an accent they don’t use local slang.

    1. We were always getting corrected as children as well. T’s at the ends of words, Yes instead of yeah etc. I hear myself doing it with N – especially ‘inn’t it?’ – no idea who he knows who says that instead of isn’t it.

  13. I’m originally from the midwest and now live in the south. I find it so funny when I can’t decide whether to say “you guys” or “ya’ll.” Plus I live in a diverse area with all kinds of accents. I do agree though that I speak with the same accent as the people I’m with at the time. It’s really kind of fun and interesting. Thanks for the post!

    1. It is really interesting how people can pick up accents naturally without trying, and yet if you try to speak with a certain accent, it’s quite difficult. Thanks for stopping by

  14. What an interesting post. I’d never thought about it before! We don’t have any accent really either. (Both from Berkshire). But the boy is definitely picking up a bit of a London twang. He sometimes sounds a bit cockney, which is soo cute! #pocolo

    1. I think that’s exactly where mine’s come from (with a bit of Oxfordshire thrown in). I suppose lots of people think they don’t have an accent as such, but to someone else they do.
      Thanks for commenting.

    1. Although in this case it doesn’t appear to. I’m going to have to listen more carefully to those he’s at nursery with to see if I can track it down.

  15. Great post! I got no kids (Yet) But my accent is what is known as Brummie but being from the posh part of Birmingham it’s not as deep and broad as others out there.
    Funny though I lived in Maidenhead for a few years and picked up a little of their dialect which comes to the fore everytime we visit London!
    One thing I will say though that I as sure you have watched is that Holidays4You advert on telly!
    Anyway interesting post!
    – PD

    1. Thanks. I always find accents interesting, and it’s funny how people view themselves, and how others see accents when you’re in a different location. I always think I’m terrible at copying accents, but then find I can adapt quite easily according to the situation with a little bit of thought.
      Thanks for commenting

  16. They definitely pick it up from people they are around everyday. They hear they way things are said and mimic.

    1. Although noone in our family speaks like that, and I’ve not noticed any of the staff or children at his nursery either. Mystery

  17. I think it they get it from the people who they interact most, or making peers it is not bad as long as they would be happy in their doings

  18. I have a niece that has a very unique accent. She has had it from the being of learning to talk. I think sometimes it is the way our mouths and tongues are shaped. I could be wrong on that, but that is my philosophy anyway.

    1. Interesting theory. My son’s got tongue tie, so must shape his words in a different way to us – will be interesting to see how it changes as he gets older.

  19. Very interesting. I thought that children were most influenced by their parents and closest surroundings but of course they have theor own little idiosyncrasies.

    1. It’s one of those strange things that we never quite know the answer to, even though it should be obvious. Thanks for stopping by

  20. Interesting post – this is something which always fascinates me too. I am from Gloucestershire, but my parents were from the Midlands. Even though I was born in Gloucestershire, I had their Midland accent for a long time and still have elements of it now. My husband is from the North West, so my kids don’t have a really Gloucestershire influence. To my former colleagues, I sounded ‘posh’ as my accent isn’t as Gloucestershire as most people, but to people from outside Gloucestershire, I sound like a farmer. My kids, having grown up without the very strong Gloucestershire accent all sound a little bit posh.

    1. Sounds just like me when we moved from Windsor. I was called posh at school, but really I just spoke nicely rather than with a particularly ‘posh’ inflection. Then I went to a public school for 6th form where you’d expect everyone to sound ‘posh’, but most were from the localish area, with only a few having a truly RP accent.

      It’s all relative to where you are at the time you’re speaking.

  21. I think it comes from the individuals that the child spends a lot of time with.
    When my brother was little, he used to have a nanny with a thick accent from one of the dialects here in the Philippines. He adapted it. Obviously, my Mom didn’t like it.
    It took a while for him to un-learn this and it meant that our Mom had to spend more time with him 🙂

  22. We live in the North East of England so we have abit of a Twang going on 🙂 but to me it doesn’t sound that bad, untill i see someone on the telly with the same accent and then im left thinking, “I hope i dont sound like that!” haha… Accents are funny things 🙂 #PoCoLo

    1. That’s what I’m like. I think on the phone I sound quite ‘common’ with a bit of horrendous ‘estuary’ going on. I know that I adapt quite easily depending on who I’m speaking to and how excited I am/fast I’m talking.

  23. Ha, my little one has the ultimate quirk … he speaks English (his first language) with a slightly German accent. The joys of spending his first three years abroad. He shouts ‘what is that?’ in the same way he shouts ‘Was ist das?’ It’s quite amusing but I’m sure it’ll slowly fade as he takes on the northern/Welsh twang of where we live now.

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