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do you inherit accents from your parents or do you learn them from the enviroment??? Answered

I was just wondering and didn't know the answer. I'm hoping kiteman or someone knows.


Accents are in general imprinted by your environment. If you are young enough then your friends have a lot to do with this - you are fitting in to the local environment. - Hence Indian parents who bring children to the UK speak their national language but the children learn and speak with a British, and often regional, accent.

Once the basic speech patterns have been established it takes considerable effort to over come them. Muscle memory take over from concious effort and you have to re think these established patterns. Thus some people have the ability to mimic any accent quite well, but by no means all can do that.

In some languages the effort of speaking created physical changes to the pallet and mouth giving you the accent. There have been cases of stroke victims taking on a French or Spanish accent as a result of the brain damage caused by the stroke changing the way their muscles operate.

Everyone is saying environment, and that's mostly true. However, in studying a foreign language, I also learned that there are genetic differences in the parts that come together to form speech. The younger you start, the easier it is not only to learn, but also to train your genetic differences to accept a new language. Think of it as someone learning to throw a football. Some people are going to be more adept at throwing a ball due to genetics, but others can also work and learn to throw a ball well. So, it's a combination, but environment is a far bigger factor.

Hi, yokozuna. What do you mean by "genetic differences"? There's not anything in a person's genes or body that would make it any easier to learn one language over another - I mean, that's how the kids of 1st generation immigrants sound perfectly native to the country they were born in, or adopted children from a foreign country sound just like their parents. Behaviors are definitely not inherited.

I have never spoken a straight english way back when I was on our own country, and now that I'm 17, we went here in Canada. I'm already fluent and I have developed a well accent in speaking english and it's almost for a year now since I have started to live here, though my parents said to me that it takes at least 4 years to be fluent in the language. It's weird how I can mimic voices, intonations and as well accents of other people... just weird... It's like I can adopt so fast to the environment...

Specifically, the shape of the tongue, as well as the placement and shape of the vocal cords. People are born with a certain predisposition to be able to make certain sounds, and not all languages share common sounds. As I said, the younger you start, the easier it is to work around this. Does that mean it's impossible for an adult to perfectly learn and lose an accent in a certain language? No, it's just a bit more difficult for them. I'm reminded of a study that showed children of video game players being born with bigger thumbs. Does that mean other kids can't play video games? No, it just means that those kids might be slightly more adept at doing so. Because of that, they may also be slightly more likely of playing video games, even if they were separated from their birth parents. I think you would be surprised at how much behavior is inherited. Ever hear about twins separated at birth who later discover they live almost identical lifestyles?  Environment plays a big role, especially very early in our lives.  But, it's not the only factor.

>Specifically, the shape of the tongue, as well as the placement and shape of the vocal cords.

I have not heard this - can you show me the source for it? I'd be interested to read it (although I remain extremely doubtful it would have anything but a negligible effect on the ease of acquisition of a particular language).

I mean, I suppose it's possible there have been studies that show non-negligible anatomical differences in the voice box, larynx, etc across races, but you *definitely* do not inherit an accent.

Nature vs Nurture, a never ending debate. It's a bit of both

You learn it from your environment. If that environment includes the exclusivity of your parents without any other factors (like tv, school, etc.) then you'd speak just like they do.

I'm first-generation Canadian and I don't have either of my parents' accent, though I did when I was first learning to speak because that's all you know. After a few years in school socializing with other kids you lose it fast. Though I have noticed there are a few words that I don't often hear outside of my folks'  and pronounce them as my parents would.

It is your environment, parents might be a heavy-influence, or they may not be.


My US based sister's accent varies violently from American to Northern English, depending on her exposure to her family !

Lots of features are inherited, but accents isn't one of them.
An accent is usually the result of adopting the characteristics of the language you hear around you, most strongly at an early age when you're learning to talk but also afterwards.
People who have lived away from their native area for a long period may well adopt a hint of the 'foreign' accent.  
It is possible to change your accent if you work at it - I knew someone who hated his Brummie accent (Birmingham, UK) and managed to lose it.

+1 My American born children did not inherit my hot Latino accent, so there you have it, it is not possible to inherit your parents accent!

You learn them from your environment, which largely consists of your parents, but they are modified by experiences as you grow older (that is, you tend to pick up traces of accents if you spend a lot of time there).

We have friends who now live in Geneva (the Swiss one), and their daughter goes to an international school. Their daughter's best friend is from an American family, and so she comes home with an American twang to her speech.

When our friends chatted to the American parents, they found that their daughter tended to come home with a distinct Yorkshire-ness to the vowels.