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Children's accents develop at nursery

A study by the University of Plymouth found youngsters begin picking up accents at 20 months and are more influenced by those around them at playgroup and nursery than at school or home.

Dr Caroline Floccia, an associate professor in the university's school of psychology, said the study dismissed traditional ideas that accents are formed at school or home. She said: ''It might widely be assumed that toddlers pick up their early grasp of language from their parents. But this research shows their social context is much more important than people might think, even at 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 younger children."

For the study, researchers at the Universities Babylab unit presented toddlers with pictures of familiar objects.

All the children were able to identify which object the speaker was referring to when the word was in a regional accent - even if their parents are from outside the area. This was not the case when the word was called out without an accent.

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