March 30, 2010

"She hits her head and she can only speak Korean? Are we supposed to buy this?"

That's one of the questions raised by tonight's episode of LOST (it was raised by Miles). What's the context? Sun is chased by fake Locke and hits her head against a tree. When she recovers from her fall, she can't speak English anymore, but she can still understand it and she can also still write in English. Jack explains that this is a case of aphasia, and he is right: Aphasia is a broad term that covers the loss or impairment of language comprehension or production. The impairment can be quite specific. In bilinguals, this can mean that only one of the two languages they speak is impaired. You can read about a specific case and its implications here:

The study, by Raphiq Ibrahim, a neurologist at the University of Haifa, describes a bilingual Arabic-Hebrew speaker who incurred brain damage following a viral infection. Consequently, the patient experienced severe deficits in one language but not the other. The findings support the view that specific components of a first and second language are represented by different substrates in the brain.[...] The results support a neurolinguistic model in which the brain of bilinguals contains a semantic system (which represents word meanings) which is common to both languages and which is connected to independent lexical systems (which encode the vocabulary of each language). The findings further suggest that the second language (in this case, Hebrew) is represented by an independent subsystem which does not represent the first language (Arabic) and is more susceptible to brain damage.
So, yes, we might be inclined to "buy" Sun's selective aphasia. But how is this relevant for the overall plot? Only 6 episodes left before the finale.

Edited to add:

3 weeks later, Sun and Jin reunite on LOST. And, lo and behold, her selective aphasia disappears. Which is rather awkward considering that there is no reason Jin and Sun should be talking to each other in English at such an emotional point.

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