Wednesday, October 25, 2006

make it rhyme to talk all the time

Got wind of Scott Adams (yes, that Scott Adams) blogging about his his travails over the last 18 months battling Spasmodic Dysphonia, a condition where part of the brain that controls speech shuts down.

He does a great job of describing how folks (and their brains) cope with communicating anyway. Some can sing, but not speak normally. Some can speak on stage to an audience but can't speak 1-on-1. Fascinating that Adams found out he can speak in the context of rhyme!

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.

The latent linguist in me (and my dust-covered degree) are totally geeking out to this news. Makes me want to go back and dust off all the experiments I designed as an assistant in the Laboratory for Linguistic and Cognitive Studies.

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