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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 ?
Now, I can understand this glossolalia more fully (but not entirely) as, perhaps, an expression of Kristeva's idea of the semiotic in its "madness, holiness, and poetry" (1976, p.
19) To this experience of re-birth, or regeneration of the mind, believed to bring humans into a close union with God, Pentecostals add "baptism in the Holy Spirit", which refers to the receiving, by the believers, of the charismata or "spiritual gifts" as reported in the book of Acts and some Pauline writings, including glossolalia (speaking in tongues), words of knowledge and wisdom, prophecy, miraculous healing and other miracles.
Celestial Song: The Glossolalia in Pentecostal Charismatic Circle in Reunion Island
The recordings, spanning more than a hundred years, are divided into: trance speech (words spoken by mediums in a presumed altered state of consciousness during a seance), direct voices (speech in a seance without an apparent natural source), precognitive claims, xenoglossy (speaking in a tongue apparently never learned by the speaker), glossolalia ("speaking in tongues" or in an incomprehensible language), paranormal music (reputedly channeled from a dead composer or interpreter), raps and haunting phenomena, and electric voice phenomena.
Whose fits of glossolalia only the pigeons understand
Kostlevy points out that while the MCA especially antagonized moderate holiness folks (non-holiness Protestants and Roman Catholics were so far beyond salvation they were hardly worth the effort), it also criticized pentecostalism for its adoption of glossolalia, even though a number of other early pentecostals had been closely associated with the MCA and had adopted many of its theological innovations.
As described by Certeau, glossolalia is a "trompe l'oreille," it is "the art of speech within the bounds of an illusion.
It displays two fundamental but contradictory aspects: 1) a semantic excess that is impossible to process or resolve to determinate meanings, and 2) a semantic poverty characterized by glossolalia or a kind of liturgical speech (the mere repetition of sounds that attests to the human capacity for language).
5) De acordo com o antropologo Raymundo Maues, a porta de entrada para a RCC costuma ser o grupo de oracao, que, semanalmente, se reune em local fixo e publico, realizando oracoes, canticos, dancas, gestos expressivos, pregacao da Palavra, glossolalia (o "orar em linguas") e extase, culminando com as profecias, entendidas aqui como o proprio Espirito Santo, isto e, a divindade que "fala" pela boca do profeta (MAUES, 2000).
Changes in cerebral activity during glossolalia ("speaking in tongues") have been assessed using SPECT, an imaging technique less disruptive to the subject than fMRI.
The use of prayer and places of worship are seen as ways in which one might seek proximity to God, and Kirkpatrick (2005) even compares glossolalia (speaking in tongues) with arms uplifted as resembling an infant seeking to be picked up by the mother.
Even if neuro-linguists make breakthroughs in understanding glossolalia (where subjects under hypnosis were able to "speak in tongues" in languages they never knew), it is doubtful that we could ever fully understand what may have happened at the Tower of Babel.