Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing (or less commonly, the writing) of speech-like syllables which lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice. The significance of glossolalia has varied in context, with some minorities considering it as a part of a sacred language. It is most prominently practiced within Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, but it is also practiced in non-Christian religions.
Glossolalia also sometimes refers to xenoglossy, which is speaking in a natural language that was previously unknown to the speaker.
3 Glossolalia in Christianity
3.1 Theological explanations
3.2 Biblical practice
3.3 Church practice
3.3.1 A.D. 100 to 400
3.3.2 A.D. 400 to 1900
3.3.3 20th century to present
4 Non-Christian practice
5 Scientific explanations
5.2 Mental illness
5.4 Learned behavior
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
"Glossolalia" is constructed from the Greek word γλωσσολαλία, itself a compound of the words γλῶσσα (glossa), meaning "tongue" or "language" and λαλέω (laleō), "To speak, talk, chat, prattle, or to make a sound". The Greek expression (in various forms) appears in the New Testament in the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians.
"Speaking in tongues" has been used at least since the translation of the New Testament into Middle English in the Wycliffe Bible in the 14th century. Frederic William Farrar first used the word "glossolalia" in 1879.
In 1972, William J. Samarin, a linguist from the University of Toronto, published a thorough assessment of Pentecostal glossolalia that became a classic work on its linguistic characteristics. His assessment was based on a large sample of glossolalia recorded in public and private Christian meetings in Italy, The Netherlands, 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. The speaker uses accent, rhythm, intonation and pauses to break up the speech into distinct units. Each unit is itself made up of syllables, the syllables being formed from consonants and vowels taken from a language known to the speaker:
It is verbal behavior that consists of using a certain number of consonants and vowels[...]in a limited number of syllables that in turn are organized into larger units that are taken apart and rearranged pseudogrammatically[...]with variations in pitch, volume, speed and intensity.
[Glossolalia] consists of strings of syllables, made up of sounds taken from all those that the speaker knows, put together more or less haphazardly but emerging nevertheless as word-like and sentence-like units because of realistic, language-like rhythm and melody.
That the sounds are taken from the set of sounds already known to the speaker is confirmed by others. Felicitas Goodman, a psychological anthropologist and linguist, also found that the speech of glossolalists reflected the patterns of speech of the speaker's native language.
Samarin found that the resemblance to human language was merely on the surface, and so concluded that glossolalia is "only a facade of language". He reached this conclusion because the syllable string did not form words, the stream of speech was not internally organised, and– most importantly of all– there was no systematic relationship between units of speech and concepts. Humans use language to communicate, but glossolalia does not. Therefore he concluded that glossolalia is not "a specimen of human language because it is neither internally organized nor systematically related to the world man perceives". On the basis of his linguistic analysis, Samarin defined Pentecostal glossolalia as "meaningless but phonologically structured human utterance, believed by the speaker to be a real language but bearing no systematic resemblance to any natural language, living or dead".
Practitioners of glossolalia may disagree with linguistic researchers and claim that they are speaking human languages (xenoglossia). Felicitas Goodman studied a number of Pentecostal communities in the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico; these included English, Spanish and Mayan speaking groups. She compared what she found with recordings of non-Christian rituals from Africa, Borneo, Indonesia and Japan. She took into account both the segmental structure (such as sounds, syllables, phrases) and the supra-segmental elements (rhythm, accent, intonation), and concluded that there was no distinction between what was practiced by the Pentecostal Protestants and the followers of other religions.
 Glossolalia in Christianity
 Theological explanations
In Christianity, a supernatural explanation for glossolalia is advocated by some and rejected by others.
Glossolalists could, apart from those practicing glossolalia, also mean all those Christians who believe that the Pentecostal/charismatic glossolalia practiced today is the "speaking in tongues" described in the New Testament. They believe that it is a miraculous charism or spiritual gift. Glossolalists claim that these tongues can be both real, unlearned languages (i.e., xenoglossia) as well as a "language of the spirit", a "heavenly language", or perhaps the language of angels.
Cessationists believe that all the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased to occur early in Christian history, and therefore that the speaking in tongues practised today is simply the utterance of meaningless syllables. It is neither xenoglossia nor miraculous, but rather learned behavior, possibly self-induced. These believe that what the New Testament described as "speaking in tongues" was xenoglossia, a miraculous spiritual gift through which the speaker could communicate in natural languages not previously studied.
Proponents of each viewpoint use the biblical writings and historical arguments to support their positions.
 Biblical practice
There are five places in the New Testament where speaking in tongues is referred to explicitly:
Mark 16:17, which records the instructions of Christ to the apostles, including his description that "they will speak with new tongues" as a sign that would follow "them that believe" in him. Many scholars take Mark 16:8 as the original ending and believe the ending (Mark 16:9-20) was written later. (see Mark 16)
Acts 2, which describes an occurrence of speaking in tongues in Jerusalem at Pentecost, though with various interpretations. Specifically, "every man heard them speak in his own language" and wondered "how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?"
Acts 10:46, when the household of Cornelius in Caesarea spoke in tongues, and those present compared it to the speaking in tongues that occurred at Pentecost.
Acts 19:6, when a group of approximately a dozen men spoke in tongues in Ephesus as they received the Holy Spirit while the apostle Paul laid his hands upon them.
1 Cor 12, 13, 14, where Paul discusses speaking in "various kinds of tongues" as part of his wider discussion of the gifts of the Spirit; his remarks shed some light on his own speaking in tongues as well as how the gift of speaking in tongues was to be used in the church.
Other verses by inference may be considered to refer to 'speaking in tongues', such as Isaiah 28:11, Romans 8:26 and Jude 20.
The biblical account of Pentecost in the second chapter of the book of Acts describes the sound of a mighty rushing wind and "divided tongues like fire" coming to rest on the apostles. The text further describes that "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in unknown languages." It goes on to say in verses 5-11 that when the Apostles spoke, each person in attendance "heard their own language being spoken." Therefore, the gift of speaking in tongues refers to the Apostles' ability to speak in their native language while the people listening heard "them declaring the wonders of God in [their] own tongues." Glossolalists and cessationists both recognize this as xenoglossia, a miraculous ability that marked their baptism in the Holy Spirit. Something similar (although perhaps not xenoglossia) took place on at least two subsequent occasions, in Caesarea and Ephesus.
The Apostle Paul instructed the church in Corinth about speaking in tongues in his discussion of the gifts of the Spirit in a letter to them. His purpose was to encourage them to value the gift, but not too highly; to practice it, but not abuse it. In the letter, Paul commands church brethren, "Do not forbid to speak in tongues" (1 Cor 14:39), while warning them that "all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner" He further expresses his wishes that those to whom he wrote "all spoke with tongues" (1 Cor 14:5) and claims himself to speak with tongues more than any in the church at Corinth ("I thank God I speak with tongues more than you all" 1 Cor 14:18). At the same time he argues that not everyone can speak in tongues (1 Cor 12:29) and discourages simultaneous speaking in tongues directed at people rather than God, lest unbelievers should think that the assembled believers were "mad" (1 Cor 14:23, 27). Tongues, says Paul, is speaking to God, rather than men ("in the Spirit he speaks mysteries" (1 Cor 14:2)). Paul claims that speaking in tongues edifies the person speaking (1 Cor 14:4), that it is the action of a praying speaker's spirit (as opposed his or her understanding, see 1 Cor 14:14), and that praying in tongues serves both to bless God as well as to give thanks (1 Cor 14:16-17). However, he also expressed a preference for prophecy over speaking in tongues, unless [a speaker in tongues] interprets, so that the church may be edified(1 Cor 14:5). Paul also gave instructions that, unless there was an interpreter present, the speaker should "keep quiet in the church", and speak only to himself and to God (1 Cor 14:27-28).
Glossolalists and cessationists generally agree that the primary purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues was to mark the Holy Spirit being poured out. At Pentecost the Apostle Peter declared that this gift, which was making some in the audience ridicule the disciples as drunks, was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel which described that God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17).
Despite these commonalities, there are significant variations in interpretation.
Universal. The traditional Pentecostal view is that every Christian should expect to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, the distinctive mark of which is glossolalia. While most Protestants agree that baptism in the Holy Spirit is integral to being a Christian, others believe that it is not separable from conversion and no longer marked by glossolalia. Pentecostals appeal to the declaration of the Apostle Peter at Pentecost, that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" was "for you and for your children and for all who are far off" (Acts 2:38-39). Cessationists reply that the gift of speaking in tongues was never for all (1 Cor 12:30). In response to those who say that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a separate experience from conversion, Pentecostals appeal to the question asked by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian believers "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" (Acts 19:2).
One gift. Different aspects of speaking in tongues appear in Acts and 1 Corinthians, such that the Assemblies of God declare that the gift in Acts "is the same in essence as the gift of tongues" in 1 Corinthians "but different in purpose and use". They distinguish between (private) speech in tongues when receiving the gift of the Spirit, and (public) speech in tongues for the benefit of the church. Others assert that the gift in Acts was "not a different phenomenon" but the same gift being displayed under varying circumstances. The same description - 'speaking in tongues' - is used in both Acts and 1 Corinthians, and in both cases the speech is in an unlearned language.
Direction. The New Testament describes tongues largely as speech addressed to God, but also as something that can potentially be interpreted into human language, thereby "edifying the hearers" (1 Cor 14:5,13). At Pentecost and Caesarea the speakers were praising God (Acts 2:11; 10:46). Paul referred to praying, singing praise, and giving thanks in tongues (1 Cor 14:14-17), as well as to the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 14:5), and instructed those speaking in tongues to pray for the ability to interpret their tongues so others could understand them (1 Cor 14:13). While some limit speaking in tongues to speech addressed to God - "prayer or praise", others claim that speech in tongues is revelation from God to the church, and when interpreted into human language by those embued with the gift of interpretation of tongues for the benefit of others present, may be considered equivalent to prophecy.
Music. Musical interludes of glossolalia are sometimes described as singing in the Spirit. Some hold that singing in the Spirit is identified with singing in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:13-19, which they hold to be "spiritual or spirited singing", as opposed to "communicative or impactive singing" which Paul refers to as "singing with the understanding".
Sign for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22). Some assume that tongues are "a sign for unbelievers that they might believe", and so advocate it as a means of evangelism. Others point out that Paul quotes Isaiah to show that "when God speaks to people in language they cannot understand, it is quite evidently a sign of God's judgment"; so if unbelievers are baffled by a church service they cannot understand because tongues are spoken without being interpreted, that is a "sign of God's attitude", "a sign of judgment".
Comprehension. Some say that speech in tongues was "not understood by the speaker" Others assert that "the tongues-speaker normally understood his own foreign-language message". This last comment seems to have been made by someone confusing the "gift of tongues" with the "gift of the interpretation of tongues, which is specified as a different gift in the New Testament, but one that can be given to a person who also has the gift of tongues. In that case, a person understands a message in tongues that he has previously spoken in an unknown language."[this quote needs a citation]
 Church practice
 A.D. 100 to 400
20th century Pentecostalism was not the earliest instance of "speaking in tongues" in church history, but earlier examples are few; in church history and writing after the New Testament, it had never been regarded as orthodox until the rise of Pentecostalism.
References to speaking in tongues by the Church fathers are rare. Except for Irenaeus' 2nd-century reference to many in the church speaking all kinds of languages 'through the Spirit', and Tertullian's reference in 207 AD to the spiritual gift of interpretation of tongues being encountered in his day, there are no other known first-hand accounts of glossolalia, and very few second-hand accounts among their writings.
What we do have are general remarks that Christ had given the gifts of the Spirit to the church, and that the gifts in general remained in the church.
For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to this present time. (Justin Martyr, c.150)
Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God. (Justin Martyr, c.150)
The Fathers also recount the lists of gifts of the Spirit recorded in the New Testament.
This is He who places prophets in the Church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, often discrimination of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels, and orders and arranges whatever other gifts there are of charismata; and thus make the Lord’s Church everywhere, and in all, perfected and completed. (Novatian, c.200-c.258)
For God hath set same in the Church, first apostles…secondly prophets…thirdly teachers…next mighty works, among which are the healing of diseases… and gifts of either speaking or interpreting divers kinds of tongues. Clearly these are the Church’s agents of ministry and work of whom the body of Christ consists; and God has ordained them. (Hilary of Poitiers, 360)
There is one instance of a Father apparently recording that he had heard some in the church speaking all kinds of languages through the Spirit:
In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God. (Irenaeus, c.180)
Tertullian in an anti-heretical apologetic alludes to instances of the 'interpretation of tongues' as one among several examples of 'spiritual gifts' common enough in his day to be easily encountered and provide evidence that God was at work in the church:
Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer -- only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue in his community has ever prophesied from amongst those specially holy sisters of his. Now all these signs (of spiritual gifts) are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God. Here, then, is my frank avowal for any one who cares to require it. (Tertullian, c.207)
There were unorthodox movements that may have engaged in glossolalia. For example, Montanus was accused (by his opponents) of ecstatic speech that some have equated to glossolalia:
He became possessed of a spirit, and suddenly began to rave in a kind of ecstatic trance, and to babble in a jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of the Church which had been handed down by tradition from the earliest times. (Eusebius, d.c.339)
Their hostility to such a practice demonstrates that the mainstream (the anti-Montanists) regarded it as false, and would never have practised it. Indeed, "after the first or perhaps the second century, there is not record of it in any Orthodox source, and it is not recorded as occurring even among the great Fathers of the Egyptian desert, who were so filled with the Spirit of God they performed numerous astonishing miracles, including raising the dead".
However, Eusebius' words demonstrate that he still regards the gift of prophesying as being a normal part of church life, so he is clearly not a cessationist.
Chrysostom regarded the whole phenomenon of 'speaking in tongues' as not only something that was not practised in his own day, but was even obscure.
This whole phenomenon [of speaking in tongues] is very obscure, but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such then as used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more? (Chrysostom, 344-407)
Augustine of Hippo regarded speaking in tongues (that is, xenoglossia) as a gift for the apostolic church alone, and argued that this was evident from the fact that his contemporaries did not see people receiving that gift in their own day.
In the earliest times, "the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spake with tongues", which they had not learned, "as the Spirit gave them utterance". These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to shew that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away. In the laying on of hands now, that persons may receive the Holy Ghost, do we look that they should speak with tongues? Or when he laid the hand on infants, did each one of you look to see whether they would speak with tongues, and, when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so strong-minded as to say, These have not received the Holy Ghost; for, had they received, they would speak with tongues as was the case in those times? If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost? Let him question his own heart. If he love his brother, the Spirit of God dwelleth in him. (Augustine of Hippo, 354-430)
Augustine did, however, recognise a phenomenon he called jubilation - sounds of exaltation without words; commentators such as Richard Hogue speculate that the practice of singing in the spirit persisted in Augustine's era, although xenoglossia was no longer extant among Christian:
Behold, he giveth as it were the tune of thy song; seek not words as if thou couldest explain whereby God is pleased. Sing with jubilation: for this is to sing skilfully unto God, to sing with jubilation. What is it to sing with jubilation ? To be unable to understand, to express in words, what is sung in the heart. For singers, either in the harvest, or in the vineyard, or in any other busy work, after they have begun in the words of their hymns to exult and rejoice, being as it were filled with so great joy, that they cannot express it in words, then turn from actual words, and proceed to sounds of jubilation. The jubilee is a sound signifying that the heart laboureth with that which it cannot utter. And whom beseemeth that jubilation, but the Ineffable God? For He is Ineffable, Whom thou canst not speak; and if thou canst not speak Him, and oughtest not to keep Him silent, what remaineth to thee but jubilation ; that the heart may rejoice without words, and the boundless extent of joy may have no limits of syllables? Sing skilfully unto Him with jubilation.
—Augustine of Hippo on the 33 Psalm
 A.D. 400 to 1900
5th century St. Patrick of Ireland (c. 387–493), in The Confession of St. Patrick, records hearing a strange language being prayed by the Holy Spirit in a dream. St. Patrick says in his book:
And another night– God knows, I do not, whether within me or beside me– most words which I heard and could not understand, except at the end of the speech it was represented thus: 'He who gave his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.' And thus I awoke, joyful.
And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was as it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me—that is, above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the Apostle's words: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for utterance [Romans 8:26]." And again: "The Lord our advocate intercedes for us [Romans 8:27].
12th century– Bernard of Clairvaux, commenting on Mark 16:17 ("they will speak in new tongues"), asked: "For who is there that seems to have these signs of the faith, without which no one, according to this Scripture, shall be saved?" He explained that these signs were no longer present because there were greater miracles– the transformed lives of believers.
12th century– Hildegard of Bingen is reputed to have spoken and sung in tongues. Her spiritual songs were referred to by contemporaries as "concerts in the Spirit."
1265– Thomas Aquinas wrote about the gift of tongues in the New Testament, which he understood to be an ability to speak every language, given for the purposes of missionary work. He explained that Christ did not have this gift because his mission was to the Jews, "nor does each one of the faithful now speak save in one tongue"; for "no one speaks in the tongues of all nations, because the Church herself already speaks the languages of all nations".
14th century– The Moravians are referred to by detractors as having spoken in tongues. John Roche, a contemporary critic, claimed that the Moravians "commonly broke into some disconnected Jargon, which they often passed upon the vulgar, 'as the exuberant and resistless Evacuations of the Spirit'".
17th century– The French Prophets: The Camisards also spoke sometimes in languages that were unknown: "Several persons of both Sexes," James Du Bois of Montpellier recalled, "I have heard in their Extasies pronounce certain words, which seem'd to the Standers-by, to be some Foreign Language." These utterances were sometimes accompanied by the gift of interpretation exercised, in Du Bois' experience, by the same person who had spoken in tongues.
17th century– Early Quakers, such as Edward Burrough, make mention of tongues speaking in their meetings: "We spoke with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and His Spirit led us".
1817– In Germany, Gustav von Below, an aristocratic officer of the Prussian Guard, and his brothers, founded a charismatic movement based on their estates in Pomerania, which may have included speaking in tongues.
19th century– Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church. Edward Irving, a minister in the Church of Scotland, writes of a woman who would "speak at great length, and with superhuman strength, in an unknown tongue, to the great astonishment of all who heard, and to her own great edification and enjoyment in God". Irving further stated that "tongues are a great instrument for personal edification, however mysterious it may seem to us."[this quote needs a citation]
19th century– The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), contains extensive references to the phenomenon of speaking in tongues by Brigham Young, Joseph Smith and many others. At the 1836 dedication of the Kirtland Temple the dedicatory prayer asks that God grant them the gift of tongues and at the end of the service Brigham Young speaks in tongues, another elder interprets it and then gives his own exhortation in tongues. Many other worship experiences in the Kirtland Temple prior to and after the dedication included references to people speaking and interpreting tongues. In describing the beliefs of the church in the Wentworth letter, Joseph Smith identified a belief of the "gift of tongues" and "interpretation of tongues". Sidney Rigdon had disagreements with Alexander Campbell regarding speaking in tongues, and later joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The practice of glossolalia by the Latter-day Saints seems to have been much more restrained than in many other contemporary movements. Young, Smith, and numerous other early leaders frequently cautioned against the public exercise of glossolalia unless there was someone who could exercise the corresponding spiritual gift of interpretation of tongues, so that listeners could be edified by what had been said. Although the Latter-day Saints believe that speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues are alive and well in the Church, modern Mormons are much more likely to point to the way in which LDS missionaries are trained and learn foreign languages quickly, and are able to communicate rapidly, on their missions, as evidence of the manifestation of this gift. The visitor at LDS church services will never hear spontaneous, incomprehensible glossolalia as s/he might at a Pentecostal service.
 20th century to present
Main article: Azusa Street Revival
Headline about the "Weird babel of tongues" and other behavior at Azusa Street, from a 1906 Los Angeles Times newspaper.
During the 20th century, glossolalia would primarily become associated with Pentecostalism and the later charismatic movement. The holiness preachers Charles Parham and William Seymour are credited as co-founders of the movement. It was Parham who formulated the doctrine of "initial evidence". After studying the Bible, Parham came to the conclusion that speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence that one had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
In 1900, Parham opened Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, where he taught initial evidence. During a service on 1 January 1901, a student named Agnes Ozman asked for prayer and the laying on of hands to specifically ask God to fill her with the Holy Spirit. She became the first of many students to experience glossolalia, coincidentally in the first hours of the 20th century. Parham followed within the next few days. Parham called his new movement the Apostolic Faith. In 1905, he moved to Houston and opened a Bible school there. One of his students was William Seymour, an African-American preacher. In 1906, Seymour traveled to Los Angeles where his preaching ignited the Azusa Street Revival. This revival is considered the birth of the global Pentecostal movement. Witnesses at the Azusa Street Revival wrote of seeing fire resting on the heads of participants, miraculous healings in the meetings, and incidents of speaking in tongues being understood by native speakers of the language. According to the first issue of William Seymore's newsletter, "The Apostolic Faith," from 1906:
A Mohammedan, a Soudanese by birth, a [m]an who is an interpreter and speaks six[t]een languages, came into the meetings at Azusa Street and the Lord gave him messages which none but himself could understand. He identified, interpreted and wrote [a] number of the languages.
Parham and his early followers believed that speaking in tongues was xenoglossia, and some followers traveled to foreign countries and tried to use the gift to share the Gospel with non-English-speaking people. These attempts consistently resulted in failure and many of Parham's followers rejected his teachings after being disillusioned with their attempts to speak unlearned foreign languages. Despite these setbacks, belief in xenoglossia persisted into the latter half of the 20th century among Pentecostal groups.
The revival at Azusa Street lasted until around 1915. From it grew many new Pentecostal churches as people visited the services in Los Angeles and took their new found beliefs to communities around the United States and abroad. During the 20th century, glossolalia became an important part of the identity of these religious groups. During the 1960s, the charismatic movement within the mainline Protestant churches and among charismatic Roman Catholics would adopt some Pentecostal beliefs, and the practice of glossolalia would spread to other Christian denominations. The discussion regarding tongues has permeated many branches of the Protestantism, particularly since the widespread Charismatic Movement in the 1960s. Many books have been published either defending or attacking the practice.
Because Pentecostal and charismatic beliefs are not monolithic, there is not complete theological agreement on speaking in tongues. Generally, however, it is agreed that speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift that can be manifested as either a human language or a heavenly supernatural language in three ways . The "sign of tongues" refers to xenoglossia, wherein one speaks an actual language he has never learned. The "gift of tongues" refers to a glossolalic utterance spoken by an individual and addressed to a congregation of, typically, other believers. Lastly, "praying in the spirit" is typically used to refer to glossolalia as part of personal prayer. Many Pentecostals and charismatics adhere to Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 14 which established guidelines on the public use of glossolalia in the church at Corinth.
The gift of tongues is often referred to as a "message in tongues". This use of glossolalia requires an interpretation so that the gathered congregation can understand the message. This is accomplished by the interpretation of tongues, another spiritual gift. There are two schools of thoughts concerning the nature of a message in tongues. One school of thought believes it is always directed to God as prayer, praise, or thanksgiving but is spoken in for the hearing and edification of the congregation. The other school of thought believes that a message in tongues can be a prophetic utterance inspired by the Holy Spirit. In this case, the speaker delivers a message to the congregation on behalf of God.
In addition to praying in the Spirit, many Pentecostal and charismatic churches practice what is known as singing in the Spirit.
 Non-Christian practice
Other religious groups have been observed to practice some form of theopneustic glossolalia. It is perhaps most commonly in Paganism, Shamanism, and other mediumistic religious practices. In Japan, the God Light Association used to practice glossolalia to cause adherents to recall past lives.
Glossolalia has even been postulated as an explanation for the Voynich manuscript.
Certain Gnostic magical texts from the Roman period have written on them unintelligible syllables such as "t t t t n n n n d d d d d..." etc. It is conjectured that these may be transliterations of the sorts of sounds made during glossolalia. The Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians also features a hymn of (mostly) unintelligible syllables which is thought to be an early example of Christian glossolalia.
In the 19th century, Spiritism was developed by the work of Allan Kardec, and the phenomenon was seen as one of the self-evident manifestations of spirits. Spiritists argued that some cases were actually cases of xenoglossia.
Glossolalia has also been observed in the Voodoo religion of Haiti, as well as in the Hindu Gurus and Fakirs of India.
 Scientific explanations
Scientific explanations for these physical and psychological phenomena have been suggested, including mental illness, hypnosis, and learned behavior.
This section appears to contradict itself about activity in the language centers of the brain: did it decrease (when or after what did it decrease) or were there no changes in any language areas (no changes in comparison to what)?. Please see the talk page for more information. (August 2012)
In 2006, the brains of a group of individuals were scanned while they were speaking in tongues. Activity in the language centers of the brain decreased, while activity in the emotional centers of the brain increased. Activity in the area of control decreased. There were no changes in any language areas, suggesting that glossolalia is not associated with usual language function. One of the researchers, Andrew Newberg, said: "It's fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak". The data demonstrated that subject's usual language centres were not activated as they spoke in tongues, which suggests that a different region of the brain is responsible for this activity. Other brain wave studies have also found that brain activity alters in glossolalia.
 Mental illness
As Pentecostalism expanded in the 20th century and attracted the attention of the wider world, psychologists initially thought of glossolalia in pathological terms, thinking that it was caused by mental illness. In 1927 George Cutten described speakers in tongues as people of low mental abilities.
This explanation was effectively refuted in 1969 by a team from the University of Minnesota, who conducted an extensive study covering the United States, Mexico, Haiti and Colombia; they reached practitioners among Pentecostals, other Protestant groups, and Roman Catholics.
Cutten's contentions concerning psychopathology, quoted and re-quoted through the years, have taken on an aura of fact among non-Pentecostal churchmen who are critical of the movement. His assumption that glossolalia is linked to schizophrenia and hysteria has not been supported by any empirical evidence.
Subsequently, a 2003 statistical study in the religious journal Pastoral Psychology concluded that, among the 991 male evangelical clergy sampled, glossolalia was associated with stable extroversion, and contrary to some theories, completely unrelated to psychopathology.
Some kind of hypnosis or trance has often been suggested as the explanation for glossolalia. Much glossolalia takes place in heightened states, whether in Pentecostal Christian or non-Christian contexts. But glossolalia does not require a state of hypnosis or trance. An experiment was conducted in which 12 experienced glossolalists performed with eyes open and without accompanying kinetic activity (such as trembling or shaking) or any residual disorientation. Moreover glossolalia is not only displayed in group situations. The Minnesotan study found that "after the initial experience of glossolalia, most Pentecostals speak with tongues as frequently, if not more frequently, alone in private prayer", including some for the first time. These findings rule out hypnosis by another, although self-hypnosis may play a part.
A New Zealand researcher, Heather Kavan, found that whether a person experienced trance or hypnosis depended on the type of group with which they were affiliated. Kavan found that most New Zealand Pentecostals and Charismatics did not experience trance except during the baptism of the spirit. However, meditators in a yoga-based purification group experienced frequent intense trances, of which glossolalia was an occasional manifestation. Kavan suggested that there are two types of glossolalia– spontaneous and context-dependent– and the former is more likely to occur in groups that are radical, experiential and charismatically led.
 Learned behavior
The material explanation arrived at by a number of studies is that glossolalia is "learned behavior". What is taught is the ability to produce language-like speech. This is only a partial explanation, but it is a part that has withstood much testing. It is possible to train novices to produce glossolalic speech. One experiment with 60 undergraduates found that 20% succeeded after merely listening to a 60-second sample, and 70% succeeded after training:
Our findings that glossolalia can be easily learned through direct instruction, along with demonstrations that tongue speakers can initiate and terminate glossolalia upon request and can exhibit glossolalia in the absence of any indexes of trance[…] support the hypothesis that glossolalia utterances are goal-directed actions rather than involuntary happenings.
The admittedly fraudulent preacher Marjoe Gortner described in a 1977 interview how people learn glossolalia in a highly emotional religious setting.
"Tongues is something you learn," he emphasized. "It is a releasing that you teach yourself. You are told by your peers, the church, and the Bible -- if you accept it literally -- that the Holy Ghost speaks in another tongue; you become convinced that it is the ultimate expression of the spirit flowing through you. The first time maybe you'll just go dut-dut-dut-dut, and that's about all that will get out. Then you'll hear other people and next night you may go dut-dut-dut-UM-dut-DEET-dut-dut, and it gets a little better. The next thing you know, it's ela-hando-satelay-eek-condele-mosandrey-aseya ... and it's a new language you've got down."
That glossolalia can be learned is also seen in the traces left behind by teachers. An investigation by the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn showed that the influence of a particular leader can shape a group's glossolalia: where certain prominent glossolalists had visited, whole groups of glossolalists would speak in his style of speech.
o Charismatic Tongues in First Centuries of Church Except with Heretics