NEWBORN babies cry with regional 'accents copied from their mothers, researchers have shown. An astonishing new study found that the screams of a five-day-old French baby have a distinct Gallic twang, while German babies have a Teutonic quality to their yells. The discovery suggests that babies are eavesdropping on their parents conversations while still in the womb and are picking up their accents. The researchers believe newborns could also be crying in regional accents - and that Geordie infants sound different from Brummies. Past studies have shown that babies can recognise tunes and voices they hear in the womb. However, this is the first to suggest that they are copying speech patterns. Dr Kathleen Wermke of the University of Wurzburg, Germany and colleagues studied the patterns of baby cries in the first five days of life. Newborn babies tend to have simple cries that rise and then fall. But as the days and weeks pass, their cries become more sophisticated - varying in pitch and length. The scientists digitally recorded the cries of 30 French and 30 German hungry babies and used computer software to analyse the results. The French baby cries tended to start low and then rise in pitch, the researchers reported in the journal Current Biology. In contrast, the German baby cries tended to start high and then drop in pitch. Dr Wermke said the patterns mirrored the intonation of French and German speakers. 'French is a very distinctive with respect to intonation, she said. 'If you listen to French speakers you can hear a rise in pitch in words and phrases. In German speakers there is a fall. She believes that babies are listening to their mothers voice in the last three months of pregnancy - and copying the patterns of speech when they cry. 'We know that infants are capable of recognising their mothers voice, her accent and tunes played while they are in the womb, she said. 'They are hardwired to learn language and copy. The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human newborns capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for their languages they have heard during their foetal life, within the last trimester. Its not just babies from different countries that have accents, she added. Babies born in different parts of Britain could also cry with local accents, she said. 'Babies can only react to simple and very clear differences, she said. 'But if the differences are strong enough then its possible. The German research is challenging long held views about how babies learn to speak. Most linguists believe that the building blocks of language appear around the third month, when babies begin babbling and making distinctive sounds. But Dr Wermkes team believes the seeds to language are found in the cries of newborn babies. 'We think that language development starts with crying, she said. Its not just babies that have unusual regional accents. past studies have shown that cows have different moos depending on what part of Britain they live in. Regional twangs have also been recorded in birds. DM