Foreign accent syndrome

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Foreign accent syndrome is a linguistic disorder which was first diagnosed in early 1900s by a renowned neurophysician. At that time it was considered more of a mental illness than a unique syndrome.

What foreign accent syndrome is?

Actually foreign accent syndrome is an extremely rare condition characterized by development of the foreign accent in the tone of a very normal native individual.

How many cases have been reported to date?

Almost 62 cases of foreign accent syndrome have been reported from 1941 to 2009. Studies have shown that severe migraine is associated with the development of this rare medical condition.

Where does it originated from? History of the syndrome

Dr. Pierre Marie, a renowned French Neurophysician diagnosed the first case of foreign accent syndrome in 1907.

What is the exact cause of this syndrome?

In this syndrome there is defect in certain processes of articulation. Most commonly defected processes are articulatory planning and coordination. A multitude of studies and researches have been done in order to get into the details of this syndrome. A study done in the Oxford University shows that certain parts of the brain which control the linguistic functions are damaged resulting in this syndrome. Once the brain parts are damaged the pitch is altered and syllables are usually mispronounced resulting in defective speech.

What are the common causes of damage to the brain?

Common causes of damage to the brain are like stroke, traumatic brain injury, hypotensive brain injury etc.

What are the clinical signs and symptoms of this syndrome?

I would like to say that in this condition a rhotic speaker becomes a non-rhotic speaker due to damage to certain brain parts. Now question arises that what is the difference between a rhotic and a non-rhotic accent? English pronunciation is basically divided into two accents; rhotic accent is the one in which an individual pronounce alphabet R in all the positions of the word. Whereas non-rhotic accent is the one in which an individual is not able to pronounce alphabet R in all the conditions except when it is followed by a vowel. So, individuals suffering from this syndrome try to change their accent completely and adapt to the new accent in order to feel comfortable.

Another common symptom of this syndrome is unusual prosody in which equal and excessive stress is given on the words while speaking.

Moreover, multiple voicing errors are seen in these cases like bike is pronounce as pike, knife is pronounced as knive etc.

What are the common accents which are affected in this syndrome?

This syndrome is present in the individuals worldwide. It is observed that American English is changed into British English, British English to French, Japenese into Korean and Spanish to Hungarian. However rare cases have been observed in which Indian boy named Rajesh started speaking English in foreign accent, which had never been out of his remote town in India.

Here I would like to mention few personalities who have suffered from this rare disorder;

Judi Roberts - she belonged to Indiana, USA, but after suffering from stroke she started speaking English accent.

Linda Walker - this 60 year old woman was from Newcastle and after suffering from a stroke she started speaking Jamaican accent.

Suggested Watching

Foreign Accent Syndrome Videos


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Author: Dr Ahmad

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