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idioglossia: the secret language of twins

First of all, let’s enjoy the music bellow, just like me in recent Dead Can Dance concert in Belgrade.

Then we’ll dive into the neuron of the day.


Stepping into the music of Dead Can Dance is like traveling through ancient culture and hearing an archaic language. On mushrooms.

But the language you hear in most of the songs has never been spoken until Lisa Gerrard, that beautiful creature of Dead Can Dance, gave it such a unique voice. Lisa sounds like she’s intoning some arcane dialect, but according to Brendan Perry, the other half of Dead Can Dance, she’s actually creating her own hybrid language.

I suppose the best way to explain her approach to the human voice as an instrument is in a sense speaking in tongues as opposed to any particular tongue. They [the lyrics] all are influenced by various languages, but have no syntactical meaning in any given and known language.

Brendan stated this back in 1990 when Dead Can Danvce album Aion was released

Lisa says that the words she sings are in her own internal language, and “mean more than she could ever explain”.

Another pure example of a secret language is whatever Jody Foster in 1994’s movie Nell is saying.


That kind of cryptic and unique words assembled in the language are not gibberish.

This is idioglossia or criptophasia.

An idiosyncratic language invented and spoken by only one person or very few people most often refers to the “private language” of young children, especially twins — more specifically known as cryptophasia, and commonly referred to as twin talk or twin speech.

A child’s vocabulary will probably have 40 to 50 words by birthday number two. While this seems to be the norm for many only children, it’s not always true of twins. (Reportedly, about one child per 10 to 15 children has difficulty comprehending or developing language skills.)Sometimes twins have more one-on-one communication time with each other, rather than with a parent or guardian. So, it seems kinda reasonable that they would continue to foster close communication with each other — even if it entails using incoherent modifications of real speech.

The idea that twins develop entirely fabricated secret languages that only they use and only they can understand has long been a source of fascination for scientists and laypeople alike.

Secret twin language in most cases, however, is not an entirely new or separate language. It’s actually, in some cases, a matter of delayed or poor speech development in either one twin or both.

Here’s a possible scenario: Twin A has difficulty articulating certain sounds and thereby certain words. Although twin B is better able to articulate these sounds and words, he chooses to mimic or repeat the manner in which Twin A speaks.

So, the two continue to talk this way, understanding what the other is saying but meanwhile, it sounds like gibberish or some concocted language to you.

Why does this happen? There are a number of theories. For one, delayed speech, in general, is related to low birth weight and premature births.

Statistics indicate that nearly 60 percent of twins and over 90 percent of higher multiples are born prematurely. Reportedly, the length of gestation decreases with each additional baby. An average single-birth pregnancy lasts 39 weeks. For twins that number drops, on average, to 36 weeks.

Other factors for developing a “new” language between twins are very little one-on-one communication time with parents and twins’ keen ability for non-verbal communication skills.

Studies have also linked the presence of a twin language to language delays later in the school-age years.

While research does indicate that the phenomenon most people think of like a secret twin language isn’t what it seems, that doesn’t mean there aren’t twins and other siblings out there making up their own private words or codes.

Bottom line parents — don’t panic.

There does seem to be a small percentage of twins who have both their own language and are able to communicate effectively with their parents in the “real” language. These twins will switch back and forth between their own language and the native language, depending on whom they are talking to. This type of “twin language” is not linked to later language delays.

It’s also important to note that researchers have not found that all twins who have their own language will go on to have language delays. Twin language seems to be a risk factor, not an absolute indicator the twins will struggle with speech and language.

But, secret language seems like a buff compared to that twin telepathy. But some other time about that.

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