What accent will my child have?

 

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My husband is American and I am Australian and this has inspired a few people to ask me, “What accent will your child have?”

Accent isn’t inherited and no one is born with an accent. Children develop language from the people around them, such as their parents, and from other stimuli they’re exposed to, such as television. They tend to develop the accent of their primary caregiver, until they go to school, when they will probably pick up the primary accent spoken in school by their friends, classmates, and teachers. Children acquire the accent of their community.

The hearing children of deaf parents model their speech on their parent’s faulty pronunciation, but when they start spending time around people without hearing difficulties they acquire the accent of their environment.

In my case, I predict that my boy will speak with an American accent to begin with, because this is the accent of his father and, since I’ve lived here for ten years, it’s the accent I’ve been converging towards. This will be further compounded if he goes to school in the United States. However, if we decide to move to Australia before he starts school, I think he’ll develop an Aussie accent when he starts his schooling. He might become fluent in both accents and move between the two of them as needed. This is known as code-switching.

Children are not confused by hearing two different accents, or even different languages. Children can differentiate languages from the age of two, although some research suggests they can tell the difference even earlier.

As for my boy’s dialect, that is, the grammar and vocabulary he’ll use, he’ll probably be bi-dialectal and speak a mixture of U.S. English and Australian English as influenced by both of his parents. So, he’ll be familiar with both uses of words like biscuits, thongs, and fanny…

Posted in: Uncategorized
Karen Stollznow

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist with a background in history and anthropology, and is the author of the best-selling book God Bless America. Her other titles include Hits & Mrs., Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic and Haunting America. Her forthcoming books include Missed Conceptions and Not What The Doctor Ordered.

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