One of the most exciting things parents share is working together to teach their child language. It turns out that, due to genetics and culture, mothers and fathers tend to impart very different skill sets to their children.
A team led by Menghan Zhang from the Laboratory of Contemporary Anthropology at the University of Fudan has just published a study that claims both parents pass on important aspects of language, which will later fit together like a puzzle to create a fluent understanding in the mind of their child.
The researchers studied "34 modern Indo-European populations," looking specifically at the links between linguistic entities like vocabulary or pronunciation and the genes passed down by both mothers and fathers. According to the results, Zheng and his team believe babies learn most of their vocabulary from their fathers, while they learn sounds and pronunciation from their mothers.
They drew this conclusion by showing that children who shared many similar genes with their fathers ended up with a similar lexicon of words, while there was also a strong correlation between a mother's genes and a child's phonetic skills.
This study flies in the face of two previously-held theories about which parent children acquire language from. Until the modern day, the "mother tongue" theory believed that mothers had the dominant role in shaping a child's native language. Then, in 1997, a study claimed just the opposite: that children learned how to speak from their fathers. This came to be known as the "father tongue theory."
In what some would describe as a fairly predictable turn of events, however, both of those theories would be put to rest by this new one: that both parents play an important role in shaping their child, though the child has a genetic predisposition to learn different things from each parent.
So don't feel bad, parents—you're both pulling your weight when it comes to teaching your baby to talk! You're a team, after all, and playing to each other's strengths is what being a team is all about.