Geordie stroke victim left sounding like Jamaican

A woman from Newcastle suffered a stroke and then later discovered that her Geordie accent had disappeared and had been replaced with a Jamaican accent.

The Times July 04, 2006

Geordie stroke victim left sounding like Jamaican
By Russell Jenkins

RESEARCHERS are hoping that a woman who woke up after a stroke to find her Geordie accent sounding like Jamaican patois could shed some light on “foreign accent syndrome”.

Lynda Walker, 60, shows the symptoms of a rare affliction that leaves sufferers with a different accent. Although Ms Walker lived in Canada for a spell, she returned to the North East, where she grew up, and never lost her strong Geordie twang. But when she regained consciousness after a stroke in March last year, she spoke with a different accent.

Most people believe that she sounds Jamaican. Ms Walker said: “I got very down about it at first. It was so strange because you do not feel like the same person. 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 Newcastle University are using Ms Walker as a case study for the syndrome. There have been only 50 documented cases over the past 65 years. The syndrome was identified in 1941 after a Norwegian woman, who suffered a shrapnel injury to her brain, began speaking with a strong German accent. It led to her being ostracised.

Research suggests that a tiny part of the brain that affects speech has been damaged. It can result in altered pitch, lengthened syllables or mispronunciation, changing the speaker’s accent. “It is like losing a big part of your identity,” Ms Walker said. “Everyone asks where I am from and if I say Westerhope, in Newcastle, they just laugh. They think I am lying. The worst thing is not having control over your own accent. I want my voice back but I don’t think that will ever happen.”
So now if you ever meet some white man speaking with a Chinese accent, saying that he was born and raised in Canada by a French Canadian mother and a British father, please believe him.
no new posts