Glossolalia, more commonly known as “speaking in tongues” is the phenomenon of speaking in unintelligible utterances (often as part of religious practices). Sceptics say that it’s all gobbledygook and the utterances have no meaning or significance apart from trying to con the unwary, or in a case I witnessed, it was a cry for help. The woman concerned was having a fit in the back pew of the Charismatic Church I then attended and her urgent utterings and mutterings and loss of physical coordination was mistaken for speaking in tongues. Thankfully there was a doctor in the house, and she was taken to hospital.
While the gift of speaking in tongues is evident in other religions and cults (even if it is not so described) it is most prolific in Christianity and the Pentecostal Church in particular. “Speaking in Tongues” is mentioned in the Bible as a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit (Corinthians). The name Glossolalia is Greek for “languages” and “to speak”. Speaking in Tongues is mentioned in no fewer than 15 times in the Bible, and its meaning seems to fluctuate between the phenomenon being a supernatural and unbidden outpouring to shock unbelievers, a tongue for strengthening the Christian church which required interpretation by a priest, or simply a private languge for prayer, not to be shared.
People speaking in tongues has been recorded and analysed by linguists. It seems that the majority of word forms spoken are open (they end with a vowel). That’s interesting in that words of most known languages end with a consonant as opposed to a vowel. The conclusion was that there seemed no metre, rhyme, meaning, consistency or sense in the sounds spoken, and therefore it could not be classified as a language.
As to why some people are more prone to these verbal outbursts, and why the vast majority are Christians, has not been explained. People who have spoken in tongues commonly have no recollection of the event or the words/sounds they ejaculated. It may be that some religious or emotional fervour grips these people and becomes so intense that it must be released in some way or form.
This man claims he is Speaking in Tongues