Cryptophasia

 

This video shows an interview with the two twin-boys, who became famous using the language of Cryptophasia, due to a youtube video that you can also find on the homepage. In this interview the parents explain how their language evolved and certain meanings of some sound utterances that they are using, e.g. the sound /a:b:/ which could mean airplane.

Cryptophasia defines the unique occurrence of a language that is autonomous and created by siblings or most commonly associated with the language of twins. It is also closely related to the term idioglossia, which basicly means the same. The word Cryptophasia has its roots from "crypto meaning secret and phasia meaning speech" [INT 6], hence a secretive language. The phenomenon of Cryptophasia is already discovered since a long time and researched by scientists since decades. It especially occurred in "the scientific literature throughout the twentieth century" (Bishop & Bishop 150), but it is not that much known about it yet. The occurrence of it is, however, not a remote instance and is it said that "40% of all twins develop this secretive twin language in their second year" (Schüller 13). This language nobody else is able to understand except the twins themselves. Other linguists believe that the development of twin language starts even earlier. It is also the "most drastic form in which the twin language development can culminate" (Schüller 2). However, it is not scientifically proven yet. Some theorists also belief that Cryptophasia develops by "one twin modeling the undeveloped or muddled speech pattern of their co-twin, which then results in the flawed use of speech sounds and grammar by both twins which may then give the perception of a 'secret language'" [INT 1].

By communicating mainly with each other in this private language, it might also have impacts on the speech development of these children. "Luria and Yudovich (1971) popularized the notion that twins use a special communication system, 'autonomous language', because they have less need than other children to develop speech as a means of communication" (Bishop & Bishop 150). To stress that, many influencing aspects have been investigated, like parental interactions as well as family history of speech, which all state that language delays appear to have the most influence on language development of twins.

This invented language of Cryptophasia is simpler than any actual language and consists more or less out of sounds, a few words and gesticulation. "Zazzo (1978) talked of 'Cryptophasia', an archaic language, making use of sounds, words and syntax that are not those of the common language" (Bishop & Bishop 150). However, some people would understand it as baby talk and consequently it is not always recognized by the parents. People only gain interest and notice of this twin language if the children continue to use them past the normal period of 'baby talk'. In the most remarkable cases, "private speech has lasted until the age of six or more" (Schüller 14). Eventually, the cryptophasic phenomenon ends with the end of the childhood. Only in rare cases, when the twins are able to catch up with the language skills of their parents before they turn ten years, they are able to maintain this private language they have created, but this is very doubtful. As Lackman utters, it is also harmful for children, if they use such a language for too long, which is at least something that psychologists found out. Studies show that the longer kids practice cryptophasia the poorer their language skills are developing.

What is also quite fascinating to observers is "the way in which twins 'share' the response to an utterance" (Schüller 13). Twins who use this language are able to respond very quickly to what the other twin has said and they are also able to predict when the other one is about to be finished with his/her utterance. They barely speak at the same time and "know each other's rhythms, and each is able to anticipate a great deal of what the other is likely to say" (Schüller 13).

This fact again shows the strong bond between twins and their "intimate knowledge of each other and the willingness to share everything" (Schüller 13). This equivalence is uttered by their analogous speech rhythm, and by a reduced selection of words when they correspond to each other. Also, "twins are not faced with an objective necessity for transition to speech communication so frequently as other children are." (Bishop & Bishop 150). This is because the twins share the same linguistic level and copy from each other, since they see each other as "a role model that is in a striking distance to them and appeals more to imitate from than from their siblings or parents" (Lichtenberger 27). They are also weakening each other's incentive to learn their mother tongue by copying their speech. There were also some observations, as Schüller stated, that twins even develop their own language code, which can only be understood by the twins themselves: "the vocabulary and grammatical structure of their language seems to be totally different from their mother tongue" (Schüller 13). However, it is not truly independent, because it is mostly an undeveloped and often almost inarticulate variant of the language of their environment (i.e., French, English, etc.) and also describes the outline of the cryptophasic speech variant. The twin's autonomous language develops as each of the twins begins to use sounds and words. They may have some "patterns for each other, repeating the sounds until the words become indistinct to all people except the twins" (Schüller 13).

As Jon Lackman states, Linguist Bernard Comrie at UC-Santa Barbara cautions that research into the birth of language is still in its infancy: "First we were told that Creole languages would provide us with insight into 'first language', then when that didn't pan out, interest shifted to deaf sign language - (also with mixed results) I guess twin language will be the next thing." That was what Bernard Comrie wrote to him.

Consequently, the existence of Cryptophasia remains controversial and will be further discussed in: Does it really exist?

 

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