Monday, April 23, 2012

Re: Glossolalia and/or Speaking in Tongues

Wikipedia’s updated entry on the subject: here. Excerpts:
His assessment was based on a large sample of glossolalia recorded in public and private Christian meetings in Italy, Holland, Jamaica, Canada and the USA over the course of five years; his wide range included the Puerto Ricans of the Bronx, the Snake Handlers of the Appalachians, and Russian Molokan in Los Angeles…. Samarin found that glossolalic speech does resemble human language in some respects…. Each unit is itself made up of syllables, the syllables being formed from consonants and vowels taken from a language known to the speaker[.]
Likewise, it might be worth noting that from the mouths of monolingual American charismatic Christians I for one have never heard anything that sounded like a click language, or a tone language, or a language that frequently uses pharyngeal fricatives, glottal stops, or labial sounds, etc. Instead, the “speaking in tongues” that I have always heard sounds just like “ela-hando-satelay-eek-condele-mosandrey-aseya” from the article. One wonders why Russians sound like Russians and Americans sound like Americans when they speak in tongues.


D.B. said...

Are you saying that the tongues we often see in churches is not a real language?

If not, what would you think it to be?

Kwame E. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kwame E. said...

[Re-posted comment]

I should have parsed the excerpts differently. I haven’t yet gotten around to reading primary linguistic reports and studies on glossolalia. (A reading list is found here.) However, the summaries that I happen upon apparently indicate the following:

1) People put glossolalic utterances together in the same way they put together sentences of their native tongues.

2a) This in turn is a double-edged sword in terms of evidence. Because while the glossolalic utterance appears to be structured and thus language-like, speakers of different languages put them together in more-or-less mutually exclusive ways each.

2b) For example, English uses tone in one way, and Chinese uses tone in another way. Or French uses stress in one way and English uses stress in another way. Or English doesn’t ever use several different possible sounds which happen to be used in other languages; vice versa with other languages. Okay, well in glossolalic utterances you somehow get English systems or choices of tonality, stress, consonants, etc. among English-speaking charismatics to the exclusion of non-English systems of tonality, stress, consonants, etc.; and in the glossolalic utterances of Spanish-speaking charismatics you somehow get Spanish systems of segmentals and suprasegmentals to the exclusion of its Chinese equivalents, French equivalents, etc.

3) Apropos 2a-2b, so not only do you have the problem of so often never hearing any identifiable living language among charismatics (e.g. how often do you hear an American speaking in tongues and think, “Hey, that’s German I’m hearing”?), but the utterances sound exactly like what you would expect to hear if someone were just making stuff up. It’s like Jacques Vallais’ observation of the predictability of names of alien planets among supposed alien abductees, or the similarity of segemental choices in Star Trek shows vs. the segemental structure of names in the Star Wars universe.

4) The glossolalia of charismatic Christians sounds like the glossolalia of non-Christians.

5) The ability to directly produce some glossolalia reportedly can be learned.


I’ll be convinced that the gift of tongues is still around on the day I find a WASP from Alabama who suddenly breaks out and starts shouting in something identifiable yet relatively unpopular like Mandarin Chinese or Xhosa. And no, I do not buy the would-be excuse “We’re speaking a heavenly tongue, not a human language.”

Kwame E. said...

In fact, there are still typos in the comment above. I hereby give up.