This is a continuation of one of my previous articles about Xenoglossy. Xenoglossy is the alleged speaking of a language that is entirely unknown to the individual. The person speaks the language fluently, even though he/she has never heard it before. In my previous article, about xenoglossy, I had written about how it cannot be explained by the language acquisition theories. In this article I’ll be focusing on the possible explanations of xenoglossy.

Researchers have given a number of elucidations for xenoglossy. But, how much do these completely explicate xenoglossy is debatable.

The most widely researched explanation for xenoglossy is reincarnation. It is believed that when a person speaks a language that he/she has not heard of, then the person might be fluent in that language in his/her previous birth. The person at times begins to speak such a language because he/she was a person who could speak this language fluently in his/her previous incarnation. The speaking of that particular language becomes more accurate when the person is in a state of hypnosis.

Reincarnation has been given a lot of emphasis in parapsychology. There have been a number of researches as well as claims about it, but there has not yet been any clear evidence of it. It is a strong belief in a few religions, but is yet to be scientifically proven. Reincarnation could very well be an explanation for xenoglossy, but there are too many doubts about reincarnation itself. Till those doubts are not cleared, it makes it difficult to be an explanation for something else.

Spirit possession is another explanation that is given for xenoglossy. The person who suddenly starts speaking a language that he/she has not heard before is believed to be actually a spirit that has taken over the body of that person. It is believed that the person gets possessed by a spirit that speaks in the language that is unknown to that person. The spirit is said to be trying to reveal some kind of message by doing so.

Like reincarnation, spirit possession is something that has endless claims. The belief in spirits and spirit possession seems to be there since forever. There have even been eyewitnesses to spirit possession. It also has its roots in many religions. People have tried very hard to prove the existence of spirits. Some have used many high-tech devices through which they claim to have proven the presence of spirits at a particular moment. But, all this has turned out to be just speculation and nothing else.

Skeptics have their own interpretations of spirit possession. They say that spirit possession is an altered state of consciousness. According to them, there is no such thing as spirit possession. They believe that rather than being possessed by a spirit, the person is in a state of heightened energy levels due to which he/she performs unimaginable acts. These unimaginable acts make people believe that the person has been possessed by a spirit.

The high energy levels that the person experiences is one of the reasons given for the speaking of a language that the person has not heard before. But, no one really knows how does this actually happen. In all, even the interpretation of spirit possession by the skeptics does not do full justice to the explanation of xenoglossy.

Telepathy is something that is quite often used as an explanation for xenoglossy. Telepathy is the apparent transfer of information between two people through their mind, beyond the five senses of human beings. Individuals involved in telepathy claim to be reading the thoughts of each other. It is said that when a person speaks a language that he/she has never heard of, then that person is connected to someone else, through telepathy, who is actually speaking those words.

Telepathy is a widely talked about phenomenon. It seems to have been existing since ancient times. It is believed that only a person with an extremely high spiritual awareness can be involved in telepathy. This can quite possibly explicate xenoglossy. But, again there has never been any concrete evidence for telepathy and this weakens its claim to explain xenoglossy.

Probably the most captivating explanation of xenoglossy is the genetic transmission of language. Research shows that language has a genetic base. There is strong evidence that dyslexia has genetic factors. But, the same logic being used for xenoglossy is mootable. Perhaps more research in this area will shed greater light.

Among all the explanations of xenoglossy, the most valid one seems to be cryptonesia. Cryptonesia is the unconscious learning of a language. Every now and then people perceive a number of stimuli. It can be possible that a language that a person has never heard of may be unconsciously stored in the long term memory, only to be revealed in emotionally arousing situations.

The revealing of the unheard language in an emotionally arousing situation can be somewhat related to the concept of flashbulb memory. Flashbulb memories are highly detailed and vivid snapshots of previous events occurring due to something that is consequential or emotionally arousing. The same thing can be said about the speaking of a language that has been unconsciously learnt.

Cryptonesia can also be seen similar to subliminal perception and subliminal learning. Subliminal perception is the perception of stimuli that is beyond conscious awareness, which influences our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Likewise, subliminal learning is the learning that occurs unconsciously. There is ample of research evidence for both subliminal perception and subliminal learning.

Cryptonesia is not just about learning a language unconsciously. It has also been termed as the learning of a language in early childhood and then forgetting it with the passage of time leaving small traces of it in the memory. This is something that is very much plausible. In fact, this is exactly what has been found out to be in a few cases of xenoglossy.

However, cryptonesia explains xenoglossy only partially. No matter how valid cryptonesia is in explaining xenoglossy, it still falls short in explicating it completely. In some cases of xenoglossy, the whole history of the person has been traced and it has been found that the person has never been exposed to the language, even unconsciously.

Apart from that, in some cases the person has been found to speak an extremely ancient language that has been extinct since ages. The speaking of an ancient and extinct language cannot be explained by cryptonesia. This is what also weakens the claim of telepathy being one of the explanations of xenoglossy.

There have been many ways in which researchers have tried to explain xenoglossy. None of them have been able to display any clarity about it. Cryptonesia can be said to be something that comes really close to give some clarifications about xenoglossy. However, it does so only partially. Perhaps we may never be able to completely know the mystery behind it.

Whatever may be the explanation, one thing that cannot be denied is that the phenomenon of xenoglossy is highly numinous and intriguing in nature.

PS: To read more about Xenoglossy, refer to my article, Xenoglossy: Is It Really Possible?

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


TF said...

Nice article. I particularly found the idea of "genetic transmission of language" intriguing. But the one about someone claiming to speak the language of Mars was funny!

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Wonderful post. I've always been fascinated by this phenomenon!

As always, your blog is a fabulous resource on the workings of the mind!

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Tipu Bhai
Even I found the genetic transmission of language to be very fascinating. I'll be reading more about genetics to know exactly what it's all about. And yes, speaking the language of Mars is really funny and weird. It also made me wonder that if the language was unknown then how did the researchers come to the conclusion that it's a language of Mars and not some other place :D

@ Rakesh
Thanks a lot for your kind words :)

Melinda said...

I've heard of this phenomenon before but I haven't heard this detailed of an explanation. I found this article absolutely fascinating--and also so well written. This is a wonderful blog and I need to stop by here more often! Keep up the great work.


Saif Farooqi said...

@ Melinda
Thanks ... yeah, I have developed a lot of interest in xenoglossy and have been reading about it ... I'm still looking for more information :)

Anonymous said...

Cool blog dude !!!

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Anonymous
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Btw sent yaa request on FB ...


Roy said...

Yes! Finally I've found another blog that actually writes about random interesting things. In this maze of blogs it's so hard to find people who have similar interests to yourself, and a great writing style on top of that. I'm glad I stumbled across yours. Consider me a follower!

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Roy
Good to know that my blog is of your interest ... :)

wimbley said...

Interesting blog you have got there!

In Taoism, people will consult mediums for advise. These mediums, also known as Dang Ki (in Hokkien), will be "possessed" by deities and start speaking in a manner that is believed to be the deity's character. So they will speak and behave like the deity.

Then again, it's hard to tell whether it's based on their subconscious ideal on how these deity should be, or if they were indeed possessed by them.

Saif Farooqi said...

@ Wimbley
Yeah, nothing much can really be said about things like being possessed by a deity or spirit ... does it really happen or is it actually an altered state of consciousness?
Thanks for following my blog :)

Anonymous said...

I work in sales and today a man was speaking to me in German. I understood every word like it was English. I have no idea how this happened. I do not know German. I could not speak back in German I only understood. He spoke English as well so I answered him in english through our whole conversation. He was puzzled and so was I but he got a kick out of it so continued to speak German. I just dont understand it. I found this article very interesting. Thank you.

Rebecka said...

Do we know anything about the claims from people who experience this sort of phenomenon?

Unknown said...

Hi. I have experienced this phenomenon multiple times, two of which I remember and am able to recall. Once I spoke in Latin. I am looking for help from a psychiatrist. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.