Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2009
10 Pages, Grade: B
2. General Background
3. Underlying Phonetic Alterations
3.1 Segmental Alterations
3.2 Prosodic Alterations
After a brain injury, e.g. a stroke, areas of the brain can be damaged permanently. Thus, a lesion on the brain can have long-term consequences for the concerned person, such as paralyses, decreased reflexes, altered sensory perception, memory deficits, and/or speech and comprehension impairments. The latter may include aphasia (i.e. affection of Broca’s or Wernicke’s area causing an inability to produce or comprehend language), apraxia (impairment of voluntary movements), or foreign accent syndrome (also known as altered-accent syndrome).
The foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a disorder that is still not completely researched, since, according to Katz et al. (2008: 537), its “symptomotology and underlying bases are poorly understood.” Nevertheless, there are some cases that have been described and examined. This essay deals with the main speech characteristics of FAS and the relative extent to which segmental and prosodic features are affected in this disorder. Therefore, the syndrome will be defined and described first. In the succeeding section, the segmental and prosodic features of FAS are taken into consideration. The last part contains the classification of FAS with respect to other speech and language disorders, such as apraxia, aphasia, and dysarthria, whether it is a mere sub-type of these disorders or if it should be treated separately.
The Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a rare neurological impairment that may occur after a cerebrovascular accident (CVA). As its name suggests, FAS terms a patient’s altered speech that is perceived as ‘foreign’ by the listener. The speech may either sound like influenced by the accent of another (existing) language or be considered as a dialect of one’s mother tongue. Although the concerned patient has never had any proven or relevant contact with the respective dialect or language, s/he suddenly appears to speak with another accent. A listener might, therefore, judge the accent on the basis of phonetic properties that are stereotypical for a certain language or accent. As a consequence, the accent in FAS, which is only perceived as a foreign accent, is defined as ‘generic’. The impressions of listeners may differ widely (Katz et al. 2008: 538). Nevertheless, in all cases the patient’s speech remains highly intelligible because the alterations are usually within the range of phonetic and phonological modifications that are still valid for a language. Dankovičová et al. (2001: 196) describe FAS as a “[…] disorder that involves the production of speech that sounds foreign to native speakers, It is characterized by an inability to make the normal phonetic and phonological contrasts of one’s native accent.” Thus, a Czech male seemed to have a Polish accent following a CVA, as reported systematically as the first case of FAS by Pick in 1919 (Pick 1919: 230). In 1947, the case of a Norwegian woman was described to an even higher extent by Monrad-Krohn (1947: 210). This patient suddenly appeared to speak with a German accent. Another report was provided by Dankovičová et al. (2001), whose female patient from South England sounded Scottish (with its typical rising intonation patterns) after suffering from a stroke.
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