Child Development Experts Explain Why The 'Scouse Baby' Babbles In A Liverpool Accent Even Though She Can't Talk Yet

Turns out we all babble in our mother's accent — and even cry in it too.

baby with British flag and Liverpool map JessicaGirvan / Shutterstock | ManuelVelasco / Getty Images Signature | jorgene / Getty Images Signature | Canva Pro

If parents have an accent, you expect their kids to eventually have an accent too. But they have to learn to speak first, right? So imagine the internet's delighted surprise at the so-called "Scouse baby" who recently took social media by storm.

The baby, Orla, has become an unlikely sensation after perfectly reproducing her mom's thick Liverpool accent. But the catch is, at just over a year and a half old, baby Orla can't even talk yet. So, how is she already out here doing a perfect John Lennon impression?


Child development experts explain why the Scouse baby already has a Liverpool accent, even though she can't speak yet.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more distinctive British accent than the Scouse accent in Liverpool, also known as Liverpool English or Merseyside English.

Its unique lilt and pronunciation are heavily influenced by Welsh, Irish, and Scandinavian accents — the latter is where the word "Scouse" comes from, in fact, after "lobscouse," a Scandinavian stew introduced to the area by Scandinavian sailors back in the day.

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A Scouse accent can be downright unintelligible to the uninitiated. I lived in the U.K. for a while and never quite got to the point where I didn't need subtitles on the TV whenever a Scouser was onscreen. Even a friend's British-born husband struggles with the dialect sometimes!

So you can imagine the delightful surprise people online got when Liverpudlian Layka, known as @iamcustardpot on TikTok, posted a video of herself having what felt like a full-on Scouse conversation with her friend Rhiannon's baby — even if one-half of the conversation contained no words other than "no!"

The video shows Layka and 19-month-old Orla having a sort of joking argument about why Orla refused to go to bed. At just 19 months, little Orla can't form many words quite yet, but somehow, her responses to Layka SOUNDED like responses — and ones full of sassy attitude at that! 


She looks right into her mum's friend's eyes and emphasizes her babble, so you can tell she is really letting Auntie Layka have it for making her go to bed while it's still light out, even though the only true word she can muster is "no."

baby talking to mom SDI Productions / Getty Images Signature / Canva Pro

But even more fascinating, her babbling is in the exact same accent as Layka's — the same lilts, emphasis, and intonations. Baby Orla even throws in the distinctive, guttural "cchhhhh" sound the Scouse accent uses for hard C's!


It's utterly fascinating to watch — so much so that it even surprised her mum, Rhiannon, known as @orlasmama72736 on TikTok

In an interview with BBC Radio 5, she said that it had never even occurred to her that Orla's gibberish had a Scouse accent until Layka's video sent the internet into an utterly delighted tizzy.

So what on Earth is going on here? Is Orla some kind of baby prodigy? Well, yes, obviously. She's hilarious and knows how to totally dominate a debate before she can barely form words! But in all other senses, she's not unique. It turns out most babies have accents.


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A child development expert explained that all babies take on their mother's accent — and it starts in the womb.

Author and educator Dr. Dan Wuori is an early childhood development expert, and as soon as Baby Orla's hilarious video migrated from TikTok to Twitter, Dr. Wuori's large following began tagging him in comments begging him to explain how Baby Orla could already sound like that viral video of Liverpool-born Kim Cattrall speaking in her Scouse accent.

"​​Do babies develop accents even before they can speak conventionally?" Wuori wrote in a tweet. "The short answer is yes… and these linguistic markers begin even sooner than you might think."


It turns out babies begin listening to and internalizing the details of their mom's speech while still in utero. "As hearing becomes functional during the third trimester," Wuori explained, "infants are exposed to the distinct patterns of their mother’s native language."

Once they're born, "newborns can already distinguish (and prefer) what will become their native tongue only hours after birth." And before long, you've got a baby on your hands who sounds like a pint-size version of Liverpudlian Spice Girl Mel B.

But it goes way further than the babbling that Orla did in her viral video. He explained that research about linguistics and babies' speech acquisition has shown that babies reflect this preference even when they cry. "That’s right: babies cry with an accent," Wuori wrote, citing a study that found babies actually cry with the respective intonations found in their languages.


So, while a British baby will cry like, "Oi mate waaaaaah innit?," French babies are more like "Honh honh honh waaaaah," and babies like Orla are like "Waaaaah" and then unload a string of Scouse-accented profanity like that angry Liverpool gay man on TikTok who tells people off on the street. (It's science!)

Another expert weighed in to explain that Scouse baby is also a perfect example of how babies learn the patterns of conversation.

There's more to little Orla's video than just her accent, however. Dr. Laura Jenkins, a professor and researcher at the U.K.'s Loughborough University who specializes in early childhood communication, explained in a Twitter thread that Orla has also mastered the back-and-forth of conversation and the dynamics of debate, despite not knowing words yet.

"The baby has clocked on to the rules of conversation and knows when it’s her turn to talk," Jenkins wrote. "She also shows the difference between types of questions & types of replies, and that they have to match." 


Jenkins went on to note that Orla also knows the distinction between a yes-or-no question like "Do you wanna go to sleep?" and more nuanced ones. "When [Layka] asks 'Why don’t you ever wanna go to sleep?' the baby has a whole lot more to say," Jenkins noted.

Jenkins explained that Orla is using the skills she does know — intonation and rhythm — to replace the words she hasn't learned to form yet. Thus, the conversation is very clearly a debate about the whys and wherefores of a baby going to bed, even though only one party can make words.


baby talking on phone Kenishirotie / Getty Images / Canva Pro

Turns out babies know a lot more than we think, and Rhiannon better get ready for little Orla. Because if she's this skillful a debater and negotiator when all she can do is babble, imagine what she'll be like when she does have words at her disposal!

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.