I’ve seen a number of children go through the same process, and I’m asking this question because I’d love to understand them better.

Children, after relocating to a country with a language with which they are entirely unfamiliar, will often acquire a near-native accent, while adults rarely do. I ask about accents in particular as language acquisition is a very broad subject, and I’d like to focus the question on only the differences between adoption of near-native accents in adults, and the adoption of the same in children.

If the critical period hypothesis is to be believed, most of the commonly-accepted windows have been passed by 3-5 years of age. Despite this, there continues to be a significant difference from adults in the rate of near-native accent adoption, and in the plateau reached in average accent adoption, well into the early teens if not later. What would account for this inverse relationship between age and near-native accent adoption?

  • $\begingroup$ When Googling "critical window theory" the top pages I get are information on the critical window hypothesis of hormone therapy and cognition (for example: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780981). To remove ambiguity, can you please link to information on the correct hypothesis you are referring to? $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2021 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers Done! Here's more info as well, in case you're interested $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2021 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting question, had it asked to me some time ago and couldn't come up with a good answer. Perceptual narrowing is a satisfactory explanation in the early stages of development, but it seems to slow down to a crawl after about one year of age... $\endgroup$
    – David Cian
    Nov 24, 2021 at 11:42


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