26 Dec 2010

Foreign accent syndrome

I was notified of this first while watching BBC. It would be a lie if I said I didn't choke on my tea. I'm not sure how to weigh this. Part of me thinks that a disorder like this is within plausibility since I myself find that my brain, thus far, can compartmentalize different phonologies of different languages quite well. Would it were that I had a stroke, Athena forbid, who's to say that my own mental walls between the set of English phonemes of my native dialect and the distinct set of French ones I've adopted might become blurred? If the data chemically coded in my cerebellum were mangled just right, I might conceivably enounce my English ar with a uvular panache.

Yet, the skeptical and pessimistic side of me (the one that's done so well to keep me out of trouble in life) appreciates the immense attention hypochondriacs can receive from being misdiagnosed with this hazy disorder. No, strokes and cognitive disorders are certainly not funny but one has to admit that it elicits a little doubt.

Below is a Youtube clip of an interview with a woman who says she acquired an Asian accent after an acute migraine caused some brain damage.

(26 Dec 2010) Browsing more online, I notice two other blog links tackling the bizarre subject. One is Neurologica: Foreign Language Syndrome which rightly compares this to the absurd glossolalia of some fundamentalist Christian sects, hinting at other disturbing motives here and not just scientific ones, unfortunately. Then Language Log: Foreign Accent Syndrome speaks of a similar disorder with a suspiciously similar term that also can so easily be sensationalized with notions of miracles serving to reinforce an irrational belief system.

When I think of it, I'd be more prone to interpret this news story as genuine if it weren't for the sensationalist term used. It's clearly not a genuine foreign accent being acquired and its proponents explain it as a kind of dysphasia. So why not just call it that and show greater respect for the intellect of viewers? This issue combined with the stunted debate about how "Chinese" her accent really is is, to be frank, just plain stupid if not potentially offensive.


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