Selective Alteration of Native, but not Second Language Articulation in a patient with Foreign Accent Syndrome

César Avila*, Julio González*, Maria-Antònia Parcet*, Vicente Belloch**, and Daniel Geffner***

* Departament de Psicologia Bàsica, Clínica i Psicobiologia, Universitat Jaume I
** Servicio de Radiologia, ERESA Castelló
*** Unidad de Neurología, Hospital General de Castelló

The present study deals with a right-handed female polyglot suffering from a Foreign Accent Symdrome ( FAS) which affects her L1, but not her other languages learnt since the age of 12.  FT suffered different lesions as the result of a carotid occlusion. Her L1 was Spanish, but she also had a good command of French, English and Catalan even these  were learnt after the critical period. Aphasia tests did not reveal any other significant alteration in any language. Results showed that different brain areas control articulation of L1 and L2 learnt after the critical period. 

Prosodic Alterations
Evaluation by Native Listeners


Speech of the Patient

As observed in previous patients with FAS, the post-trauma speech of FT in L1 (Spanish) showed segmental and suprasegmental deviations from native performance that affected articulation, utterance, segmental duration, and prosody. These impairments were not evident in French, English and Catalan (L2). Comparing pre-trauma versus post-trauma spontaneous speech, temporal measurements demonstrated an overall slowness of the rate of articulation. Importantly, this effect was specific of her native language only appearing in Spanish [t (116)= 7.34, p<.0001]  but not in French (L2) [t(36)= .57, p=.570]. Difficulties in proper sequencing and connecting of native speech movements was patent in a sentence-repetition task.
Auditory and acoustical analyses revealed articulatory impairments in the Spanish consonants apico-alveolar tap /r/, vibrant /r/, fricatives /interdental/ and /s/, and the affricate /t?/. Impairment  especially arises in the ability to sequence speech movements when several of these sounds are included in a same word (p.e. “zanahoria” /?anaoria/ [carrot], “cereza”  /?ere?a/ [cherry]). Spanish of FT is grammatical and perfectly intelligible, but she shows difficulties in linking certain sounds across words in connected speech, particularly the final /s/ of plural articles with the following vowel (e.g. “los árboles” /los-arboles/ [the trees]). No significant impairment was found for French as evaluted by French native speakers.