little panda (ms_cucumber) wrote in linguaphiles,
little panda

Last week the Daily Mail revealed how Czech speedway rider Matej Kus started speaking fluent English after he was knocked unconscious in a racing accident.

Despite knowing only basic English phrases before the crash, the 18-year-old, who made a full recovery, was able to chat with paramedics as they treated his injuries.
With her nine-year-old son William lying desperately ill in hospital following emergency brain surgery, Ruth McCartney-Moore prayed that she would one day hear his voice again.

But when he did speak weeks later, she was in for a shock.

He had lost his strong Yorkshire accent and was now speaking the Queen's English.

"We noticed that he had started to elongate his vowels in words like 'bath' which he never did before," said Mrs McCartney-Moore, 45, a music teacher from York.

"He no longer has short vowel sounds - they are all long. It's bizarre."

The rest under the cut.
William was taken to hospital after suffering a fit in March last year.

"It all began with a headache," said Mrs McCartney-Moore, whose husband Barry is an IT consultant.

"William said his head really hurt above one eye and he had a high temperature.

"There was a bug going around school, so my husband and I didn't think it was any more than that. But a few days later he had a massive seizure."

Doctors discovered he had an abscess on his brain, known as a subdural empyema, which is caused by a rare strain of meningitis. He needed a lifethreatening operation to remove the fluid.

"All the doctors and surgeons thought he was going to die - nobody thought he was going to come out of surgery," added his mother.

"Before he went in I cut off a lock of his hair to keep."

Following the operation William, a pupil at Hempland Primary School in York, was in hospital for more than four weeks. He lost the ability to read and write and his memory was also affected.

But remarkably he was able to play the piano and trumpet much better than before.

After he came out of hospital William went on a family holiday to Northumberland with his parents and brothers Alex, 16, and Edward, 15.

"William was playing on the beach," said Mrs McCartney-Moore.

"He suddenly said, 'Look, I've made a sand castle' but really stretched the vowels out, which made him sound really posh.

"We all just stared back at him - we couldn't believe what we had just heard because he had a northern accent before his illness.

"But the strange thing was that he had no idea why we were staring at him - he just thought he was speaking normally."

Mrs McCartney-Moore, who took 18 months off work to nurse her son back to health, added: "He went from being such a bright, lovely, wonderful boy who was confident and socially aware, to being like a two-year-old who followed me everywhere like a toddler.

"It was such a shock because he had always been such a sparky, healthy little boy."

William has since returned to normal in everything but the way he speaks.

Brain surgeon Paul Eldridge, who works at the specialist Walton Neurological Centre, Liverpool, said it was possible that the infection and abscess had affected the area of the brain which controls language skills, forcing William to learn how to speak again.

"It's as if he's re-learnt how to talk from listening to language from sources different to those that prompted his speech first time around."

Phil Edge, head of therapy at the brain injury charity, Brainwave, said: "I've heard of other patients developing changes in their speech or behaviour following a head injury or brain surgery, but not quite to this extent that an accent completely changes.

"Usually, a person's speech changes in pitch or tone, but it's interesting that this boy's lost his Yorkshire dialect completely.

"Obviously there has been some change to the central speech centre of his brain which has caused differences in how it is functioning now, compared with before the operation."

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