Speaking In “Unknown Tongues”

Though thousands of good people honestly believe they have been given a great gift, the ability to speak in a heavenly language they call the “unknown tongue,” nothing even near what the Bible teaches can be summoned as support for the claim. In this little paper ample evidence has been presented to show clearly the error of those who still make the claim. Not one word has been presented to offset what has been clearly shown, viz., no one today has a tongue-speaking gift, for God does not give such. No successful refutation of the things presented in this paper on tongue speaking and Holy Ghost baptism is possible. Little wonder that not a single so-called “Pentecostal” has tried.

That the unknown tongue in the Bible is simply a language foreign to the speaker has also been demonstrated. The tongues of Acts chapter two were languages in which the hearers were born. The speakers, the apostles, knew nothing of the language they were speaking more than the simple fact that they were being understood by others. (Read again Acts 2:1-12). Those who make the claim that they speak today in tongues just as the apostles did on Pentecost are completely deceived.

Several years ago, William E. Welmers wrote a letter to Christianity Today, in which he proved that all languages now being spoken on earth fall into known language families. Anyone who represents what he/she utters as a language can be checked by linguists who are experts in the field. Frank Ferrell also related the findings of extensive investigation into specific occurrences of “tongue speaking.” Over 400 recordings were made and not one syllable of any known language was discovered.

Here is a written representation (as close as possible) to a recording made of very sincere individual allegedly speaking in the unknown tongue.

“‘Yamana ‘kita, sia’-- ‘yamana ‘kita ,sia’naya,si -- ,ana’kiana ‘tiasa,naya ,ana’kia ‘tyana ‘sia,--naya,si.”

This was recorded by Walter A. Wolfram and was included in his Master’s thesis, “The Sociolinguistics of Glossolalia,” page 97. As a linguist, Wolfram searched diligently to identify any intelligence in the utterances with no success at all. Could someone among the so-called “Pentecostals” who receive this paper possibly interpret it for us, or identify the language for what it is?

The following items were found to be true in each recorded utterance of tongue-speaking.

1. There were “no more than two contrasting vowel sounds.”

2. There was “a most peculiarly restricted set of consonant sounds.”

3. These made up “a very few syllable clusters which recur many times in various orders.”

4. The “intonation patterns” are “completely American English.” Welmer concluded that there was no sound even similar to any known language structure.

Walter Wolfram wrote the results of his studies of tongue speaking and concluded the following points.

1. The texts were clearly related to the language backgrounds of the speakers and they had obviously taken sounds from languages with which they were familiar.

2. In every instance all those who spoke in tongues sounded alike. This would not be the case if they were speaking different languages. Wolfram noted an unusually high frequency of the vowel a and he noted a tendency to end breath groups in vowels.

4. He noted a high frequency of repeated clusters of sounds, such as the example shown above.

His conclusion was irresistible. The speakers were certainly not speaking a known language and therefore could not communicate anything to anyone.

A very revealing fact is that the Pentecostals are not the only religious people in the world who claim they speak some unknown tongue. Those who have studied the culture of the original Americans are fully familiar with their practices along these same lines. The Indians had a shaman or priest that came to be known as the “medicine man.” L. Carlyle May wrote an article in an American Anthropologist and cited the example of an Eskimo woman who “spoke to the spirits in their own language.” The speaker in these instances becomes a mouthpiece for the pagan deity and afterwards is unable to recall what was said. There is no difference in either the claim or the practice of tongue speaking, whether it is the pagan practice of the Indians or the Pentecostals of our day.

May makes another very incriminating statement against modern day tongue-speaking. He says, “This survey has shown that speaking-in-tongues is widespread and very ancient. indeed it is probable that as long as man has had divination, curing, sorcery, and propitiation of spirits he has had glossolalia.” Those who practice it today, whether sincerely or in pretense, ought to realize that they have no better claim than any pagan idolater or sorcerer. It is false and ought to be exposed. Has it ever occurred to any of you who claim you speak in tongues that you could be under the influence of Satan rather than God, and are simply but completely deceived?

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