Foreign accent syndrome is a rare medical condition involving speech production that usually occurs as a side effect of a brain injury, such as a stroke or a head injury, though two cases have been reported of individuals as a development problem. The condition was first described in 1907 by the French neurologist Pierre Marie.
To the untrained ear, those with the syndrome sound as though they speak their native languages with a foreign accent. However, researchers at Oxford University have found that certain, specific parts of the brain were injured in some foreign-accent syndrome cases, indicating that certain parts of the brain control various linguistic functions, and damage could result in altered pitch or mispronounced syllables, causing the speech patterns to have a different sounding accent.
A case of foreign accent syndrome occurred to Linda Walker, a 60 year old woman from the Newcastle area. After a stroke, her normal Geordie accent was transformed and has been variously described as resembling a Jamaican, as well as a French Canadian, Italian and a Slovak accent. More recently, researchers from McMaster University published a study where a woman from Windsor, Ontario, after suffering a stroke, began speaking with what some people describe as a Newfoundland accent.
In 2008, Cindy Lou Romberg of Port Angeles, Washington, who had suffered a brain injury 17 years earlier, developed foreign accent syndrome after a neck adjustment from her chiropractor. A visit to the hospital ruled out a stroke. Afterwards she spoke with a Russian accent and even appeared to make the grammatical mistakes of a Russian speaking English, as if English was not her native language.