• Question: Out of interest, what is the link between the brain and a persons accent?

    Asked by lowercaseonly to Damien on 13 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Damien Hall

      Damien Hall answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      dear lowercaseonly

      i’m afraid i can’t comply with that! but have you ever read any poetry by e e cummings? you should look it up.

      If you’re asking why I’m in the Brain Zone, I think it was probably just because I didn’t exactly fit in any of the other more specific ones, like Forensic Science, Clean Energy, or any of the ones named after metals! We didn’t choose what zone to be in – we were given zones by the people organising IAS.

      But accents (and the whole of language) do have something to do with the brain, of course, because if we had no brains we would have no language at all. We’re only really starting to learn now which parts of the brain do what in language. People talk about something called the Language Faculty, which isn’t a specific single part of the brain, but is a name for the collection of brain functions that have to do with language. It’s supposed to be the thing (or one of the main things) that make humans different from any other animal. In terms of specific places in the brain that do specific things, there are a few areas that we know what they do: in particular, two parts of the brain, Broca’s Area and Wernicke’s Area, control the fact that we can speak and use the right words for things at the appropriate times – and, if you have an injury in one of these parts of the brain, you will have something called aphasia, which is a general term for a lot of speech disorders.

      You should ask Suzi about aphasia, Broca’s Area and Wernicke’s Area, if you’re interested! I think she works on brain injuries.