Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Foreign accent syndrome




With one ear on the pillow and one near the bedside radio, I missed the word foreign, but soon got the idea. A Geordie lady (who complicated matters by saying she never really had a strong Georgie accent and had also lived in the U.S. for many years) who now sounds a bit French or maybe Italian. All the other items now fell into the background as my mind worked away on the possible cause.

Had an area of the brain which managed accent had been hit, so the sufferer now had no means of controlling accent? This was appealing because it struck at some aspects of free-will and identity. This Norwegian lady developed a German accent in 1941! Another recent case was Tiffany Roberts. There is a sound file from this page which has the before and after accent.

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Imagine a well-known writer with a distinct writerly voice suffering a similar condition which consisted of being unable to write in the style he or she once did. Of course this style has been developed: writers rarely write from the beginning in the style to which their readers become accustomed.

Though a person with accent problems suffers, this would be nothing compared to what the writer would go through.

How little of Pride and Prejudice would need to be altered for someone who was very familiar with it to become suspicious? It would be no good doing the same for Dostoevsky because of the problem of translation.

other sources:

Foreign Accent Syndrome Explained
Those who are well upon this will recognise the homage to Dennet's Consciousness Explained
It doesn't actually say which areas of brain have been knoocked out. I was expecting to get some sort of explanation based on the language/speech centres, Broca's and Wernicke's area, etc.

John Coleman's Home Page
He has a link to work on MRI on speech movements (i.e.what he calls vocal tract shapes).




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