Does Cryptophasia exist or not?

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Not all linguists confirm the existence of Cryptophasia, but would file it under a persistent immature speech form, phonologically disordered speech, a language delay or an atypical speech and language. Those are the opinions of e.g.: Mittler, 1976; Savic, 1980; and Dodd and McEvoy, 1994. But there are also some researchers, who argue for the existence of Cryptophasia, like Luria & Yudovich, 1959; Hay, Enticott & O'Brien,1988; Bakker,1987 or Schüller, 2002. After McEvoy & Dodd, a lot of parents, teachers and the general population are eager to accept the theory of twin-talk as well.

One of the linguists against the theory of Cryptophasia, Savic (1980) concluded from a study of three Serbo-Croatian twin pairs that "there was not such thing as a private twin language; rather, what is observed in some twins is a persistence of immature speech forms, which occurs just as much when the children communicate with adults as when they communicate with one another" (Bishop & Bishop 150). Dodd and McEvoy (1994) found that unusual and immature phonological processes were more frequent in multiple-birth children than in single-born children, and they suggested that a so-called autonomous language might simply be phonologically disordered speech.

One of the most cited studies in favor of the existence of Cryptophasia is the one of Luria & Yudovich (1959). They stated that some twins use some kind of different speech pattern by using invented speech and a "generalization of common words" (Dodd & McEvoy 274). Dodd and McEvoy furthermore claim that, since that observations were based on one pair of five-year-old twin boys, there was no linguistic description of the idiolect. Other researchers who argue that a twin language exist, like Anastasi, 1958; Scheinfeld, 1967; Mittler, 1970; Hay et al. 1988, reported that the frequency of Cryptophasia is quite enorm: "Savic's (1980) review concluded that most authors arguing for the presence of twin language agree that 40 % of twins exhibit the phenomenon" (Dodd & McEvoy 274). Also, most of these authors agree that an autonomous language of twins influences speech and language development. Those linguists found out that twins in preschool- age have a bizarre phonological process that is untypical for children at that age, if they develop normally. So, Dodd & McEvoy would propose that "twin language" is rather a persistence of not fully formed or deviant speech patterns than some kind of private and invented language.

However, Mittler (1970) had found out in his researches, where he questioned parents of 4-year-old twins, that almost half of the children, "91 out of 192", (Bishop & Bishop 152) were using some kind of a secretive communication system. Bishop and Bishop are questioning the research method of Mittler, since parents are not reliable when they are interviewed about their children. They criticize that they expand the term Cryptophasia with for example telepathy, since one parent said, that the twins would know what each other is thinking. Furthermore they criticize the parental interviews for being retrospective.

Some researchers, like Luria and Yudovich (1971), are of the opinion that the use of a twin language hinders the children to learn their mother tongue. An evidence for that would be the case of "Poto and Cabenga", who had difficulties to learn proper English, since they continued talking in their twin language until the age of 6. Reasons for the reduced wish to talk to other people developed, because of the closeness between the twins. However, Bishop & Bishop think that it is more likely that twins, who do that, already have "a family history of language delay, suggesting a genetic predisposition to language impairment" (Bishop & Bishop 157). Others, like Zazzo (1978) believe that the occurrence of Cryptophasia has that negative impact on learning the mother tongue.

All things considered, all studies show that there is a connection between twinhood and delayed language learning. The question if it, however, is a language or some kind of immature speech form cannot satisfactory be answered by none of the researchers. It cannot really be confirmed, but it also cannot be ruled out. Bishop & Bishop agreed that there would be a trend for an association between twin language and low skilled language performance in school age, "even when there was no parental or clinical concern about the child" (Bishop & Bishop 159).

I think, that since there is some evidence between poor language performance in school age and twinning, it actually shows a tendency that these language problems could be the direct consequence of Cryptophasia and a higher degree of closeness, which leads to a very private atmosphere between the twins and a possible urge to develop some kind of communication system very early. These communication methods can also be mimics, gestures and noises at first, but it is more likely that this simple way of communicating with each other can lead to an actual language between twins.


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