language and mind

May 26, 2012

Glossolalia: impediment versus gift

Filed under: language, language processing, psycholinguistics, psychology — teresapelka @ 12:28 pm

When you ‘speak in tongues‘, you produce unintelligible speech. This sure is strange, as humans usually talk to tell, unless the purpose would be the word play known as poetry. Is strange behavior really divine?

Imagine someone asked if this would have been their pair of dirty socks in the middle of the lounge carpet when the very important people that contractors happen to be came to talk sense. What one could hear, might be: “AAAA-R-GH. Nope. Whatsoever”. The AAAARGH might even become suggestive of the Great Vowel Shift should the contractors have left this meaning no cash and no holiday.

Purposely unintelligible speech would avoid natural phonology. This avoidance still would have phono-articulatory patterns. Let us think about something like “Me tum gade the bock be ore”. The pattern here is the bilabial stop [b] gradually to replace the bilabial nasal [m], the concomitant alveolar [t] and [d] to precede the dental [th], with a potentially velar [g] intermittent to the [t] and [d] vowels vacillating front to back, high to low.

I have emulated the pattern myself; it is nothing inspired. It could be transformed into “My mum made me mock me more”, if to think about heat and similar influences to the human brain that cause glossolalia and phonologically driven discourse. Would the non-speech be mandated by a higher agency?

Recently, a man standing in the street gave me copy of the Bible, the Recovery Version, printed by the Living Stream Ministry Anaheim, California. I have compared the passages about the Holy Spirit with the American Standard Bible, my quotes come from the latter.

“And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit.”

The passage hardly could concern unintelligible speech, as it says about delivery in or under judgement. The delivery would be assisted by the Holy Spirit. Another passage concerns salvation and the Holy Spirit; it would imply to take the matter of the Spirit and, therefore, intelligibility serious.

“Verily I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 3:29but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Naturally, a deity to advise damage to speech might not gain authority. What new tongues would the Bible speak about?

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.’ ‘And these signs shall accompany them that believe: (…) they shall speak with new tongues …

Preaching the Gospel to new people most probably involved speaking their languages. Intelligibility not imposing any requirement to make oneself comprehensible to everyone, let us compare ‘language’ and ‘tongue’ in dictionaries.


Etymology: Middle English tunge, from Old English; akin to Old High German zunga tongue, Old Norse tunga, Gothic tungo, Old Latin dingua, Latin LINGUA.


Etymology: Middle English langage, language, from Old French, from langue tongue, language (from Latin LINGUA) + -age — more at TONGUE.’

(Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.)

Looking to etymologies and contemporary uses, as well as regarding American English, there is nothing to substantiate any interpretation of the lexical item ‘tongue’ for incomprehensible speech. Would the Greek-derived ‘glossolalia’ justify the interpretation? Let us look up word origins. How could we derive the lexical item ‘glossary’?

Etymology: Medieval Latin glossarium, from Latin GLOSSA, a difficult word requiring explanation.

A glossary can be ‘a collection of textual glosses or of terms limited to a special area of knowledge or usage.’ (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged).

How come ancient Romans had difficult words for ‘glosses’? Latin and Greek were the two most prominent languages of the Antiquity, the language ‘affair’ was not too hot, however. ;) The contemporary word ‘gloss’ may be derived from the Greek GLOSSA, tongue, language, word. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition).

The Greek item ‘lalia’ could be interpreted as ‘speaking, speech’. One could be speaking difficult words. One could be a kiddo acquiring speech. Kids begin or start ‘speaking in words’ some time in their lives. Before that, the speech of the young human may be unintelligible.

Well, there might be no reason to make the human an ugly bebe : ‘tout petit enfant; enfant dont la conduite est par trop puerile, ou adulte qui manque totalement de maturite’, says Larousse online hot affairs are infrequent. ;)

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