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Related to glossolalia: speaking in tongues


(glŏs'əlā`lēə) [Gr.,=speaking in tongues], ecstatic utterances usually of unintelligible sounds made by individuals in a state of religious excitement. Religious revivals are often accompanied by manifestations of glossolalia, and various Pentecostal (see PentecostalismPentecostalism,
worldwide 20th–21st-century Christian movement that emphasizes the experience of Spirit baptism, generally evidenced by speaking in tongues (glossolalia).
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) movements cite for authority the Acts of the Apostles, which records that on the day of Pentecost the Apostles "were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability." There are other New Testament references to the phenomenon. The Corinthian believers overvalued the gift; Paul in 1 Corinthians encouraged the orderly use of the gift and "interpretation" of the utterance so that all might be edified. In Acts, however, the use of the gift produces speech in other human languages as a kind of reversal of the confusion of tongues produced at the Tower of BabelBabel
[Heb.,=confused], in the Bible, place where Noah's descendants (who spoke one language) tried to build a tower reaching up to heaven to make a name for themselves. For this presumption the speech of the builders was confused, thus ending the project.
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See J. P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues (1972); G. T. Montague, The Spirit and His Gifts (1974).


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

From the Greek glossa, “tongue,” and lalia, “chatter,” glossolalia is the term used for “speaking in tongues.” Sometimes at religious gatherings or in séances, someone will go into a trance and start speaking in an unknown language. Many times witnesses to such an event will make extravagant claims, such as that the person was “Speaking in ancient Egyptian” or that they were “speaking Greek.” It is not known exactly what ancient Egyptians sounded like, and unless there was someone present who could actually verify that language, there can be no evidence for such utterances. Far more frequently the speech is utter gibberish. In fact, one definition of glossolalia is “speaking in pseudo-tongues”. Professor Charles Richet (1850–1935) preferred the term Xenoglossis, which covered both speaking and writing in unknown languages, whether real or pseudo.

Nandor Fodor reports that in the pamphlet Drei Tage in Gros Almerode written by a theological student of Leipzig, J. Busching, there is information on ten cases of xenoglossis at a religious revival at Almerode, Hesse, in 1907. He said, “The phenomena began with a hissing or peculiar gnashing sound. These sounds were caused by the subject, not wishing to disturb the order of service by interrupting a prayer already commenced, exerting himself to repress the inward impulse acting on his organs of speech. But all that had to come came, and the momentarily repressed glossolalies only burst forth with increased vigor.”

The Spiritualist medium Laura Edmonds, daughter of Judge John Worth Edmonds (1816–1874), claimed the gift of tongues. Although normally she could speak only English and a smattering of French, while entranced by Spirit she spoke a large number of different languages with great fluency, including Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and Hungarian. Indian dialects were also identified. These phenomena and many others were all very meticulously recorded by her father. She was possibly the first Spiritualist medium to exhibit glossolalia. According to Emma Hardinge Britten, medium Jenny Keyes sang in Italian and Spanish, languages with which she was not familiar.


Britten, Emma Hardinge: Modern American Spiritualism. (1870) New York: University Books, 1970
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978



(1) The phenomenon in which the speaker pronounces meaningless words and word combinations preserving only a few characteristics of speech (tempo and rhythm, syllable structure, and comparative frequency of various sounds); encountered in patients with certain mental illnesses.

(2) An element of religious cultism found in several primitive religions—for example, shamanism and a few Christian sects. Often, particularly in religious sects, the speaker is subjectively convinced that he is speaking some actually existing language. Zaum’ (poetic language using words regardless of their meaning) and certain forms of emotionally burdened speech are related to glossolalia. Thus, K. I. Chukovskii described a case of glossolalia in a mother’s addressing her child.


Konovalov, D. G. Religioznyi ekstaz v russkom misticheskom sektantstve. Sergiev Posad, 1908.



Gibberishlike speech; unintelligible jargon.
References in periodicals archive ?
Though other enthusiasts did see glossolalia as speaking the language of angels, few were so explicitly Adamic in focus.
According to Ryan, "Praying in tongues, called jubilation or glossolalia, was often incorporated as part of the eucharistic liturgy, probably where we have the Gloria today.
Anthea Butler rightly argues that glossolalia, along with the fervent prayer, fasting, sanctified daily living, and modest dress that necessarily preceded it, served to disconnect believers from outsiders who viewed them as too "unreal" for the world.
Writing as a sociologist, Margaret Poloma recognizes a ritual value to glossolalia and describes how the Blood and Fire Church in Atlanta uses it as a weapon in spiritual warfare between good and evil.
On an individual level it climaxes in the experience of Spirit fullness and glossolalia, and on a communal level in group prayer and the cultivation of varied charismata of healing.
But one criterion by which to come to a judgment are the epistemological changes that it [the event] provokes" (264), and for the analysis of language, "the glossolalia reflects an institutional function of language .
Even though fewer than half of the early adherents spoke in tongues, glossolalia defined the movement, and Wacker interprets speaking in tongues as both a physiological process of cognitive dissociation and the product of a radical evangelical culture that prepared people for the experience by drawing on the New Testament in ways that created an expectation that it would occur.
Pentecostal historian Robert Mapes Anderson defined glossolalia as an experiential phenomenon of an ecstatic, altered state of consciousness, in which "orgiastic techniques are cultivated to achieve ecstasy in the belief that unusual psychological and physical states are synonymous" with Spirit-possession.
In contrast to the sound poems and glossolalia of the Lettrists and Dadaists, this music was more than an achievement in the history of the avant-gardes; it marked a major shift in mass culture, even if initially only on its margins.
Glossolalia and other ecstatic manifestations authenticated God's presence and power, reflecting the reality of the Holy Spirit within believers.
The distinctive mark of Pentecostalism--Spiritbaptism as an enduement of power for witness with attending glossolalia (speaking in tongues)--was correlated with the inherited understandings of sanctification resident within different sectors of these holiness and revival movements.
While the competencies required of the spectator by Chadwick's Glossolalia, 1993, are not entirely distinct from those necessitated by an encounter with Eisenman's The Minotaur Hunt, the factitiousness and "spontaneity" of painting, as opposed to the constructivism of sculptural hybrids, presents a more convincing totalization of attitude.