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Foreign accent syndrome as a developmental motor speech disorder

Marien, P., Verhoeven, J., Wackenier, P. , Engelborghs, S. & De Deyn, P. P. (2009). Foreign accent syndrome as a developmental motor speech disorder. Cortex, 45(7), pp. 870-878. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2008.10.010


Introduction: Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a relatively rare motor speech disorder in which the pronunciation of a patient is perceived by listeners of the same language community as distinctly foreign. FAS has been well documented in adult patients with etiologically heterogeneous, though mostly vascular brain lesions affecting the motor speech network of the language dominant hemisphere. In addition, reports exist of adult patients in whom FAS was due to a psychiatric illness. Although FAS has been reported in children, such accounts are rare and have remained largely anecdotal in that there have been no formally documented cases of FAS as a developmental motor speech disorder.

Methods and results: For the first time, we describe the clinical, cognitive and neurolinguistic findings in two patients who in the absence of a history of psychiatric illness or acquired brain damage already presented with FAS at an early stage of speech and language development. In the first patient “developmental FAS” was associated with a dysharmonic distribution of neurocognitive test results indicating slight underdevelopment of visuo-spatial skills and visual memory. The second patient presented with “developmental FAS” associated with specific language impairment (SLI). Independent support for a diagnosis of FAS in both patients was obtained in an accent attribution experiment in which groups of native speakers of (Belgian) Dutch assessed the type of foreign accent of a sample of the patients’ conversational speech. Both patients were judged as non-native speakers of Dutch by the majority of participants who predominantly identified the accent as French.

Conclusion: This paper for the first time documents two patients who presented with FAS on a developmental basis. The finding that FAS does not only occur in the context of acquired brain damage or psychogenic illness but also exists as developmental motor speech impairment requires a re-definition of FAS as a clinical syndrome.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Behavioral Sciences, Neurosciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES, NEUROSCIENCES, Foreign Accent Syndrome, Specific language impairment, Apraxia of speech, Language, Motor speech, Cognition, LANGUAGE DISORDER, CHILDREN
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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