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Native speakers prefer... native speech

The tendency to favor your own social group over others emerges before you've learned anything about current disputes or historical conflict, before you've even learned how to talk. Children show strong early preferences for people speaking their native language, say researchers at Harvard and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. They suggest this linguistic favoritism may underlie conflict between social groups.
    In a series of experiments, the team showed that even before infants produce, or they say, comprehend speech, they prefer to look at speakers of their native language over speakers of a different language, and they prefer to take toys from speakers of their native language. Additionally when five-year-old native English speakers were shown photographs of two children and played a recording of either an English or a French speaker, they said they'd choose the child who spoke their native language as a friend. A similar experiment showed that children prefer other children who have their native accent over children who speak their native language but with a foreign accent.
    These findings are not exactly surprising. Would anyone expect anything else? Still, the researchers hope that understanding how the foundations of social conflict develop may help contribute to their solutions. PNAS. Press links to come.

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