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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Stroke gives woman foreign accent
Linda Walker
Linda Walker says she hates what has happened to her

A Geordie woman has apparently developed foreign accents after waking up following a stroke.

Linda Walker awoke in hospital to find her distinctive Newcastle accent had been transformed into a mixture of Jamaican, Canadian and Slovakian.

The 60-year-old may have Foreign Accent Syndrome, where patients speak differently after a brain injury.

The former university administrator says she hates what has happened to her and now feels like a different person.

Mrs Walker said: "My sister-in-law said that I sounded Italian, then my brother said I sounded Slovakian and someone else said I sounded French Canadian.

"But the latest is that I sound Jamaican, I just don't know how to explain it.

"Everybody is obviously hearing me differently.

I've lost my identity, because I never talked like this before. I'm a very different person and it's strange and I don't like it
Linda Walker

"I didn't realise what I sounded like, but then my speech therapist played a tape of me talking. I was just devastated."

Researchers at Oxford University have found that patients with Foreign Accent Syndrome have suffered damage to tiny areas of the brain that affect speech.

The result is often a drawing out or clipping of the vowels that mimic the accent of a particular country, such as Spain or France, even though the sufferer has limited exposure to that accent.

The syndrome was first identified during World War II, when a Norwegian woman suffered shrapnel damage to her brain. She developed a strong German accent, which led to her being ostracised by her community.

Different sounds

Dr Nick Miller, a senior lecturer in speech language science at Newcastle University, said the condition could occur in patients who had suffered a stroke or other brain injury.

He said: "The stroke has affected the coordination between different muscle groups like the lips, tongue and vocal cords.

"The balance has been changed and certain sounds get distorted so vowels and consonants take on different sounds.

"Intonation is also affected so sometimes it will fall at the end of a sentence and sometimes it will rise."

Mrs Walker added: "I've lost my identity, because I never talked like this before. I'm a very different person and it's strange and I don't like it.

"It's very hard and I get very upset in my head, but I'm getting better."

The mind's strange syndromes
08 Sep 00 |  UK News

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