What is it called when a person is “speaking in tongues?”

A person who has what is known as “the gift of tongues” is usually in the midst of religious ecstasy, trance, or delirium. The speaker — and often witnesses too — believe that they are being possessed by a supernatural spirit or channeling the language of a deity or divine being, although the words are incomprehensible otherwise.

Experts call this phenomenon glossolalia, a Greek compound of the words glossa, meaning “tongue” or “language,” and lalein, meaning “to talk.”

Speaking intongues occurred in ancient Greek religion. It is also mentioned in the The Act of the Apostles in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, which says that it first occurred among followers of Jesus at Pentecost. Today, it is commonly associated with Pentecostalism.

Xenoglossy is often mistakenly used to refer to tongue-speakers. However, xenoglossy is a paranormal occurance in which a person is able to speak a language that he or she has never heard, read, or been exposed to in any way. It is a phenomenon that is not generally accepted by linguists and psychologists.

For example, a person who is said to show signs of xenoglossy might fluently speak Japanese despite having never studied the language, visited Japan, or been exposed to Japanese songs, television shows, web sites, etc.

What do you think of the concepts of glossolalia and xenoglossy?

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