Glossolalia and Linguistic Alterity

The Ontology of Ineffable Speech

in Religion and Society
Evandro Bonfim National Museum, Rio de Janeiro

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This article proposes a revised definition of glossolalia based on the ritual value of incomprehensible speech, which allows for an approach to meaning emergence in non-human languages and the issue of extreme linguistic alterity. The main social and acoustic features associated with glossolalia will be presented through the case study of a Christian charismatic community in Brazil (the Canção Nova), showing us how linguistic evidence supports different notions of Christian personhood and an iconic-based communication between human and divine beings.

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Religion and Society

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