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Foreign Accent Syndrome (cbc.ca)
92 points by pseudolus 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments





Scot here - there's undoubtedly a Scots feel to the accent of Sharon Campbell-Rayment, but it's more like that of an originally non-native-English speaker who moved to Scotland and then lived there for >20 years. There's a couple of things I noticed in her first clip which might interest folks here:

1. the way she says "Scotteesh or Ireesh" in the first 2 seconds doesn't fit 100%. That way of pronouncing "-ish" as "-eesh" exists but for a more raw working class accent than what she has. So my dad is from Govan, a pretty working class area of Glasgow, and he'd say it like that. I grew up in Northeast Scotland and have an accent closer to hers and I wouldn't pronounce it this way.

2. The way she says "... we've since known that it is a ..." makes me think of a Northern Irish accent

3. Her "Inverness" has the emphasis backwards which is common in for Americans and Canadians when pronouncing Inver- and Aber- placenames. We would emphasise the second half - InverNESS, AberDEEN - whereas she's saying INVERness (or INverness). So she's picked up the general pronunciation, but some of the Canadian quirks are still present.

In any case it's super interesting!


Makes sense. She can't reproduce quirks that her brain is not aware of - consciously or subconsciously.

Fellow Invernesian here ā€” you still local or escaped for different pastures?

Aberdeen originally but Iā€™m over in Czech Republic now

Probably this proves the point of the article. I'm Italian and the accent of the lady labelled as French/Italian sounds somewhat German to me: no Italian would stop between syllables like that. On the other side I can imagine why that could sound Italian to English speakers. Italian has very few vowel sounds compared to English and for us is hard to learn all the intermediate vowels, for example between a and e. The lady seems to have lost them too. I wonder if she can learn them back.

Native German speaker here. I listened to the clip -- the accent sounds like a mix between Scottish and Swedish to me.

As Dutch person I find it sounding more like this as well. For sure it is an accent you don't hear often (it sounds quite strange to me). I cannot say I hear any Italian/French sounding speech in it at all.

As a native Swedish speaker, it sounded more like a latvian or lithuanian person trying to speak British English.

Native swedish/english speaker here. I agree that it sounds like she's trying to speak with some unidentified British accent.

Interesting. I'm rather picking up some slight Vietnamese vibes, but in general, I find it's too much over the place for me to consider it to be anything specific. It doesn't sound particularly European to me at all.

As a Swede I do not hear anything particularly Italian, French or German about her accent. It is just not familiar at all.

> In fact, according to linguist Sheila Blumstein, it's not really a foreign accent at all. Rather, it's a change in speech patterns that listeners interpret as an accent ā€” though sometimes a bad one.

Well, that's much more plausible than suddenly being able to imitate a specific different accent perfectly. I wonder whether any Scots were involved in identifying her speech patterns as Scottish.


I'm English, and would say 'yes that's pretty good' if she were a Canadian 'doing a Scottish accent' at a party or whatever - with some truth and some politeness. But I wouldn't meet her and think 'yep you're Scottish'.

Not that I can claim to have heard representative samples of all Scottish accents (just like 'English' it encompasses far more than one) of course, but something's just 'off' to the extent that I'd actually be surprised if she was introduced as actually Scottish, or assume it had been mucked up by living abroad or whatever.


There is a sound clip in the article. I'm not a Scot and not even a native English speaker but I can recognize some Scottish "artefacts" in her speech. Nevertheless, she definitely didn't go full Braveheart and is nowhere near having a "perfect" accent.

There are many Scottish accents, and Braveheart isn't one of them.

To me it sounds very much like Inverness, or maybe a native Gaelic speaker from the outer Hebrides. They have an interesting accent which sounds somewhat foreign, despite debatably being more native than English


I think "Go full Braveheart" was used for humorous effect. Would "go full Trainspotting" have passed your correctness meter? :)

Very interesting, and the suspected actual effect (structural changes in how the words are formed that are interpreted as a bad foreign accent), seem consistent with some physical techniques to mimic others.

I am French and had to read the text below the audio a few times to make sure that what I am hearing is indeed labeled as French.

There is nothing French in how she is speaking. Some weird German-like vibe maybe.


> In fact, according to linguist Sheila Blumstein, it's not really a foreign accent at all. Rather, it's a change in speech patterns that listeners interpret as an accent ā€” though sometimes a bad one.

Well, accents are just that, differences in speech patterns.


The difference is that an accent is a speech pattern associated with a specific locality or people. Whereas a speech pattern just means the way someone speaks.

She said it's not a foreign accent, not that it's not an accent.

I think this points to a specific amount of accent "modes" for languages in the human brain. There's a small finite amount and the human brain can only operate within the bounds of a single accent "mode."

When you damage one accent "mode" in your brain, it has to switch to the next available one. Since the amount of accent "modes" are small and finite you get people who switch to a mode that is recognize-able and used in another part of the world that speaks the same language with a different accent.




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