Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a rare acquired syndrome following neurological damage that results in articulatory distortions that are commonly perceived as a “foreign” accent. The nature of the underlying deficit of FAS remains controversial. We present the first reported Canadian case study of FAS following a stroke. We describe a stroke patient, RD, who suffered an acute infarction to the left internal capsule, basal ganglia and frontal corona radiata. She was diagnosed as having FAS without any persistent aphasic symptoms. Family, friends, and health care professionals similarly described her speech as sounding like she had a Canadian East Coast accent, a reported change from her native Southern Ontario accent.
An investigation of this case was pursued, incorporating neuroimaging, neuropsychological and speech pathology assessments, and formalized linguistic analyses.
Linguistic analyses confirmed that RD’s speech does in fact have salient aspects of Atlantic Canadian English in terms of both prosodic and segmental characteristics. However, her speech is not entirely consistent with an Atlantic Canadian English accent.
The fact that RD’s speech is perceived as a regional variant of her native language, rather than the “generic foreign accent” of FAS described elsewhere, suggests that the perceived “foreignness” in FAS is not primarily due to dysfluencies which indicate a non-native speaker, but rather due to very subtle motor-planning deficits which give rise to systemic changes in specific phonological segments. This has implications for the role of the basal ganglia in speech production.