New Zealand woman has rare foreign accent syndrome

July 13, 2010

A New Zealand woman was reported Tuesday to be suffering from the rare foreign accent syndrome with her Kiwi tones turning into a mix of Welsh, Scottish and North London accents.

Bronwyn Fox, a multiple sclerosis sufferer from the southern New Zealand city of Invercargill, told the Southland Times she woke one morning to find her had changed and an showed two on the back of her brain.

Her doctor believed the change in her speech was related to the lesions but had not been able to offer much further help.

Fox is a third-generation New Zealander who has never visited the United Kingdom and when she first talked to friends on the phone with her new voice they thought it was a hoax call and hung up.

"People say 'where do you come from?' And I say 'Winton' and they say "no, no but where are you from originally?'," she said in her new accent.

"It's very hard for people to realise it's come from my head."

Her husband Rex was unconcerned.

"It's quite entertaining. It brightens up a boring day sometimes," he said.

Only a few dozen people worldwide have been officially documented as suffering from the syndrome since it was first recorded in 1907. It is linked to damage to the part of the brain that controls speech.

Other known cases of the disorder include an English woman speaking with a French accent after having a stroke and a Norwegian woman spoke with a German accent after being hit by shrapnel in 1941.

Earlier this year a woman in England began speaking with a Chinese after suffering a migraine.

"I've never been to China. I just want my own voice back but I don't know if I ever will. I moved to Plymouth when I was 18 months old so I've always spoken like a local," Sarah Colwill told the Daily Mail.

Explore further: Linguists looking for a Pacific Northwest dialect

Related Stories

Linguists looking for a Pacific Northwest dialect

October 25, 2007

Linguists generally believe the West is too young to have evolved separate identifiable accent features or words, as has happened in other areas of the United States, and they usually lump together everyone living west of ...

Are you phonagnosic?

October 27, 2008

The first known case of someone born without the ability to recognise voices has been reported in a paper by UCL (University College London) researchers, in a study of a rare condition known as phonagnosia. The UCL team are ...

What makes an accent in a foreign language lighter

August 10, 2009

The more empathy one has for another, the lighter the accent will be when speaking in a second language. This is the conclusion of a new study carried out at the University of Haifa by Dr. Raphiq Ibrahim and Dr. Mark Leikin ...

Google voice search learns Chinese

November 2, 2009

Google's voice search tool now understands Chinese. The Internet giant announced on Monday that users of Nokia S60 series mobile phones could now search the Internet using voice commands in Mandarin Chinese.

Foreign subtitles improve speech perception

November 11, 2009

Do you speak English as a second language well, but still have trouble understanding movies with unfamiliar accents, such as Brad Pitt's southern accent in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds? In a new study, published ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
WHat the heck? Do people have to have heard the accent before? They must have.
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
The symptoms are real. But their designations are funny and misleading. Who are the persons who invent descriptors like "Chinese accent"? Could they tell Chinese from Thai?
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
It wouldn't be so bad if one got to pick the accent. Oh well, guess they have to put up with a random pick.
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
I think it goes like this: People in certain are use their voice with some way. And people with this brain problem lose the ability to speak the way they used and instead their speech begins to sound like they were associated with some other are.

This tells that we have the ability to modulate our voice to conform to different locals, at least until there is this problem that modulates the outcome of one's speech.
not rated yet Jul 14, 2010
If foreign language articulation can be referred to as 'speaking in tongues', what can foreign accent articulation be referred to?

I'm voting for 'speaking in lips'.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.