in 1941, during World War II, a Norwegian named Astrid was hit to the brain by shrapnel during a raid. Two years later, she met the neurologist Georg Herman Monrad-Krohn who noticed immediately that despite his good Norwegian, she “a foreign accent so pronounced that I thought she was German or French “, he wrote. This is not the only one who had this confusion. Germans occupied Norway since 1940, and while Astrid had never left Norway, the accent was posing as an opponent with its neighbors. “ She complained bitterly of being taken for a German in stores, where, therefore, it refused to sell him anything ” Monrad-Krohn continued.

Of dysprosody to syndrome foreign accent

Astrid is not the first recorded case of “foreign accent syndrome “(which is a Parisian who developed Alsatian accent after stroke in 1907), but his case study has the merit of being particularly detailed. Monrad-Krohn called its “dysprosody” prosody is the language elements other than words (intonation, rhythm, accentuation, …). Astrid was always a prosody – in fact, his speech was not monotonous. – But it was different than that of a standard Norwegian

The term “foreign accent syndrome” was coined in 1982 by neurologist Harry Whitaker and is, indeed, more clearly “dysprosody”. This is a rare but interesting state, which has seen over 100 cases published study.

Neurogenic or psychogenic?

There are two different types of foreign accent syndrome, neurogenic for the first, psychogenic for the second.

The foreign accent syndrome neurogenic is the most common, and happens after the brain has been damaged by stroke or brain injury. The link between brain damage and impaired speech has not yet been formally explained, but it is often located in the middle cerebral artery and in regions of the brain associated with language, especially in the left hemisphere .

In the foreign accent syndrome psychogenic , there is no identifiable brain deterioration, but this person of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or conversion disorder, as well as focus. In this case, “the new accent persists for psychiatric episode and can then disappear ,” the researchers write.

There is also a syndrome of mixed foreign accent, which can therefore have the characteristics of both.

varied symptoms

The syndrome manifests itself in several ways. One can notice changes in different aspects of prosody. In addition, people can hear different accents of the same person (remember Monrad-Krohn, who found that the Astrid looked accent “ German or French “). It is also sometimes distinguish traces of the original focus of the person in the new. Patients may also have difficulty forming sentences, or can put the emphasis on the wrong word or the wrong syllable.