Foreign Accent Syndrome

Thomas M. Paikeday thomaspaikeday at SPRINT.CA
Tue Nov 25 19:44:53 UTC 2003

Google has over a thousand references to this interesting syndrome. I
haven't had the pleasure of reading all of them. But questions arise in some
part of my own undamaged but aging brain:

1. Can the phenomenon be repeated by causing a lesion (using volunteers, of
course) in the part of the brain concerned in each patient and checking
whether the foreign accent produced is the same in regard to the vocal
features involved? Is the new accent just "similar" to a foreign accent or
closely identifiable with the general accent of the speech community
concerned in regard to all of its vocal features?

2. Without sounding inhuman, is this one way of teaching foreign languages
in the future? How does language if acquired by causing lesions in the brain
differ from language acquired by years of training in TEFL programs?

3. Does the phenomenon lend weight to Chomsky's theory of language being
wired into the brain in a physical way?

4. Has there  been any science fiction created using this phenomenon?

"This might explain the combination of subtle changes to vocal features such
as lengthening of syllables, altered pitch or mispronounced sounds which
make a patient's pronunciation sound similar to a foreign accent." (From a
BBC story)

Tom Paikeday

----- Original Message -----
From: "Grant Barrett" <gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG>
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2003 1:01 PM
Subject: Re: Foreign Accent Syndrome

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Grant Barrett <gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG>
> Subject:      Re: Foreign Accent Syndrome
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A supposed example of Foreign Accent Syndrome:
> "An American woman told how how she suddenly developed a British accent
> after suffering a stroke.
> "When Tiffany Roberts, 57, recovered from the stroke she found she had
> an accent placed somewhere between East London and the West Country.
> "Even the pitch of her voice changed, becoming much higher than the
> deep Indiana drawl she once had."
> --
> Grant Barrett
> gbarrett at

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