Language: A Curious Case Of Foreign Accent Syndrome : Shots – Health Blog : NPR

Neurologists and linguists are very intrigued by Foreign Accent Syndom (FAS), an extremely rare disorder that is usually caused by brain trauma.  Today, NPR covered the story of a Portland, Oregon woman who acquired a European-sounding accent, probably, says neurologist Ted Lowenkopf, because of a stroke she suffered during dental surgery.  According to NPR, “Lowenkopf says FAS affects only a small area of speech — just the pattern and intonation. Strokes and brain trauma usually cause major damage to the brain and leave people with far bigger speech problems than just a change in accent.”  

Linguists wonder what kind of training these neurologists have in accents.  It’s clear from listening to Karen Butler, the woman featured in this story, that her intonation has changed.  Her vowel patterns have changed, but it’s not clear what other sound patterns might also be affected.  Since she’s not a native speaker of a European dialect of English (she’s never even been to Europe), one wonders what caused these specific patterns to develop. 

via A Curious Case Of Foreign Accent Syndrome : Shots – Health Blog : NPR.


About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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