Originally Posted by dsdrane
Guys, please excuse my ignorance, but this is fascinating and I have a couple of questions:
Is each person's speaking-in-tongues language different/unique, or can one understand someone else?
Or is it that the sounds are meant to transcend syntax and grammar the way we normally understand them?
Daniel, when you use this gift of yours, are you aware of what you are saying...can you understand others?
Has anyone attempted writing this down?
David- these are some of the questions I have asked myself. I have not read of any instance where a living person has claimed to know what was being 'said' by another person, that is, a known human language. The link I quoted earlier has this to say based on research. The emphasis in bold is mine.
Glossolalia is an unusual pattern of aberrant speech. A review of the current research data provides a new source of information for examining the phenomena of glossolalia. If is a modification of the conscious connection between inner speech and outer speech. The meaning and function of glossolalia is closely tied to its social and cultural context. The historic theological debates concerning glossolalia centered on whether it was of divine or devilish origin. Such debate is irrelevant. Glossolalia, as such, is not a spiritual phenomea, but is may be a result of deep and meaningful spiritual exercise.
Whether we agree with these conclusions or not, the research referred to in the article reveals that glossolalia today is actually abbreviations of known languages. Note the following quotations:
5A. Structural Linguistics of Glossolalia
A number of studies on American English-speaking glossolalists have recently been done. These reports vary somewhat in the specific technical conclusions, but in general there is consistency in the conclusions. The differences seem to be due to the fact that glossolalic speech has different degrees of organization. Some glossolalia is very poorly organized and consists of little more than grunts and barely-formed sounds, while other glossolalia is highly organized into a systematic series of vowels and consonants. Several language studies, including our own, suggest that glossolalists develop their speech from ill-formed structure to "practiced" and "polished" glossolalic speech. Thus the quality of glossolalia depends to some extent on the stage of development of glossolalia.
The following seem to be reasonable conclusions from these studies. Glossolalia, in English-speaking subjects, is composed of the basic speech elements of English. The major difference consists of a lack of organization of the basic vowels and consonants into the elements necessary for intelligible speech. The elements of speech such as pauses, breaths, intonations, etc., are greatly reduced or changed. Thus glossolalic speech tends to resemble the early speech qualities of young children before they organize all the various parts of the adult language. Further, there is a reduced number of vowels and consonants used. The conclusions of the linguists is that glossolalia has the characteristics of partially formed language, while lacking certain requirements of true language.
Indeed, many of the qualities of glossolalic speech are those found in the speech of young children. A comparison of Devereaux's outline of children's speech and glossolalic speech is striking. On this basis, one may suggest that glossolalic speech appears to be a return to an early way of speaking, in which speaking and sound are used for purposes other than just the communication of thought. This idea gets further support from other data to be cited.
Another line of investigation has focused on the duplication of glossolalia under experimental rather than religious conditions. Al Carlson, at the University of California, recorded two types of glossolalia. One type was recorded by volunteers who were asked to spontaneously speak in unknown language without having ever heard glossolalia. These speech samples were then rated and the two types of glossolalia could not be distinguished from each other. In fact, the "contrived" received better ratings as "good glossolalia" than did the actual glossolalia.
Werner Cohn, at the University of British Columbia, took na´ve students to Pentecostal churches to hear glossolalia and then asked the students to speak in glossolalia in the laboratory. They were able to successfully do so. Their recordings were then played to glossolalists who described the glossolalia as beautiful examples.
In sum, the data suggest: that glossolalia has a specific language structure based on the language tongue of the speaker; that the linguistic organization is limited; and that the capacity to speak in this type of semi-organized language can be duplicated under experimental conditions. Thus, glossolalia does not appear to be a "strange language," but rather the aborted or incomplete formation of familiar language.
This research clearly undercuts the claims of glossolalists that they speak a "heavenly language." In reality they are speaking abbreviations of their national language.
I find the whole matter fascinating. And I can only look to my own speaking in tongues to notice, as I mentioned in an earlier email on this thread, that my 'version' sounds like French, that is, the phoneme's used in the the French language. It's rhymes a great deal for one thing. Rather curious that. I sing in French, but my 'tongues' French is a lot easier to pull off. My sense is that, my brain utilizes many of elements of French, but not all!
Did it always sound like it does now? No. It didn't. It was a much more crude affair when I did it in my teens. This makes me suspicious, and leads me to conclude that the activity is, in essence, originates in the part of my brain that processes these sounds, but not in a 'intelligent' way. The article from the NYtimes on this thread, as well as the link here, seems to suggest this.
No. I can't understand a word- or sound- it might be better said- that comes out of my mouth. Nor have I ever understood another person who spoke in tongues when I was in the AG church. But it is an electrifying experience when it happens in a service. Everything about the environment makes for great theatre. I don't mean btw, to imply a negative connotation here, since the threatical aspect of speaking in tongues in a public space for the benefit of all is, from my point of view, one of the primary reasons we attend church and other 'performances'. We hope to be moved and lifted up. Touched in some way by our participation. To feel renewed and refreshed. Great 'theatre' does that.
There may ideed by something theraputic about the activity. But this may have more to do with beliefs about the activity rather than the activity itself. If so, that is a curious thing, is it not?
If, as the quoted article suggests, that speaking in tongues is "a result of deep and meaningful spiritual exercise", then it seems to me that the the purpose and function of this excercise, as distinct from its assigned purpose and function, remains to be discovered.