Category Archives: Fluency

Countdown to Christmas – Question 15: Sunday 15th December

It’s Sunday and a day of rest for many folks. For some, it’s also a religious occasion. And for Pentacostals, it may be an opportunity to indulge in “Speaking with Tongues,” a phenomenon where individuals are moved by an alleged supernatural force to articulate in an inspired – and unknown – language. But what is the scientific name for this?

Speaking in tongues

(a) Glossolalia
(b) Linguaphilia
(c) Lexiosynthesis
(d) Grammatologosia

ANSWER: glossolalia

From the Greek glossa meaning “tongue” or “language” and lalein meaning “to talk or prattle,” glossolalia is a type of fluent speech that is devoid of meaning. It sounds like language but turns out not to be. People tend to use their native phonology to create glossolalic utterances – so if you’re a native English speaker you are unlikely to use /ps/, /ts/, or /ks/ at the beginning of a syllable boundary, but if you are a native Greek speak, you will. In a classic study fron the 1970’s, William Samarin concluded that glossolalia is “unintelligible babbling speech that exhibits superficial phonological similarity to language, without having consistent syntagmatic structure and that is not systematically derived from or related to known language.” [1]


Interesting article from a religious perspective. Holm, R., Wolf, M. and Smith, J.K.A. (2011). New Frontiers in Tongue Research: A Symposium. Journal of Pentacostal Theology, 20, 122-154.

Short video of an example of glossolalia – unfortunately titled [2]:


[1] Samarin, W.J. (1972). Variation and Variables in Religious Glossolalia:  Language in Society, ed. Dell Haymes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pgs. 121-130.

[2] The example here is used because it’s brief and illustrates the point. The title of the video, “Crazy hat lady” is unfortunate because it’s linguistically ambiguous; does it means a lady wearing a crazy hat, or a hat-lady who is crazy? It also shows why hyphens are needed so we can work out if it’s a “crazy-hat lady” or a “crazy hat-lady.” It’s also wrong to insinuate she is crazy because many people of faith are quite sane and sincere people – just misguided in their belief in a non-existent supernatural being.


Countdown to Christmas Quiz: Question 10 – Tuesday 10th December

A puzzling one today 😉  First, follow this link to a jigsaw and then once you’ve completed it, see if you can guess which famous Speech and Language Therapy pioneer it it. The person was particularly active in the treatment of stuttering.

ANSWER: Charles van Riper!

Charles van Riper

Charles van Riper

Charles van Riper was born in 1905 in Champion Township, Michigan. His family nickname was Cully, which he used later in life as his pen name, Cully Gage, for a series of stories known as The Northwoods Reader about life in Northern Michigan.

His Ph.D. thesis was written in 1934 and titled An experimental investigation of laterality in stutterers and normal speakers, which pretty much set him up for his life-long dedication to helping folks with dysfluency. He founded Western Michigan University’s speech, hearing and language clinic in 1936, which was renamed after him in 1983.

In 1939, his book, Speech Correction: Principles and Methods, was first published, and went on to become a standard in the field of Speech and Language Pathology.

Speech Correction by van Riper

On November 19th at the 1956 Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois, he received the Honors of the Association Award from ASHA.

Van Riper died on September 27th, 1994, at his home in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


All things Van Riper at Judy Kuster’s web page.

Books by Cully Gage at Amazon.

“The King’s Speech” versus “The Duke’s Cure”

With the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech currently making Speech Therapy look like a career worth pursuing – especially for those of us who look like Geoffrey Rush and want to work exclusively with rich royals – many younger therapists may bot be aware of the masterful techniques used by the unacknowledged master of dysfluency therapy; John Wayne, or, as he was nicknamed, The Duke.

Wayne, acknowledged for his portrayal of the hard-nosed, no nonsense, heroic tough guy, took on the role of Speech Therapist in the 1972 movie, The Cowboys. Click on the picture below to see how he managed to cure a boy’s stutter in less than a minute! It’s so dramatic that one wonders WHY there isn’t the Institute for Waynian Therapy charging vast amounts of money for this miracle cure.

John Wayne

John Wayne - SLP!

Of course, these days, poor John would have to go through months of persuading an IRB evaluation team to let him use human subjects, and he’d certainly need to demonstrate some pretty stringent measures of efficacy in order to be given a research grant.

On the other hand, he could just add a dolphin to the treatment and people would be fawning all over him…

World’s First AAC Device…Pebbles?

The Greek politician and orator, Demosthenes (/dɪ’mɒsθəˌniz/), lived from 384 to 322 BCE, during which time he was feted as one of the Greece’s most noted speakers. Cicero went to far as to proclaim him “the perfect orator” [1], which is high praise indeed from someone who was also recognized as a master presenter.

Demosthenes: Greek orator

Demosthenes 384-355 BCE

But as a child, Demosthenes had a stammer, which was so noticeable that he was given a nickname by his less-than-sympathetic friends: Batalus. The name derives from the Greek βατταρίζω, which means “to stutter.” Tragically for poor Demosthenes, it was also Greek slang at the time for “anus,” and “effeminate,” so his nickname was something of a double whammy.

Batalus was also the name of a popular flute player from Ephesus who, according to Libanius [3] was the first man ever to appear on stage wearing women’s shoes; an event so shocking and scandalous that the writer Antiphanes made him a character of mockery in one of his comedies.

Undaunted by the abuse, Demosthenes took up a therapy regimen that included what might be considered the first augmentative and alternative communication device in the world: the humble pebble. According to Plutarch;

his inarticulate and stammering pronunciation he overcame and rendered more distinct by speaking with pebbles in his mouth. [2]

It’s interesting to speculate on why stuffing your mouth with pebbles might help overcome a dysfluency, and even more interesting to wonder why there is not some enterprising individual out there selling “Stutter Pebbles” via the Internet, in a variety of colors and sizes to accommodate the different lifestyles and aspirations of potential customers!

Colored pebbles

TheraPebbles™ - not!

How true the story of Demosthenes’ pebbles is depends on how accurate Plutarch was in his investigations, and unless someone out there can channel the spirit of a dead Greek, there’s no way of testing the accuracy of the story. What is of interest is simply the fact that the idea of using some sort of physical technology to assist speech has been around for a long time.

If you know of anyone who has tried – or even better succeeded with – using Pebble Therapy, let us know by commenting below or dropping us an e-mail. And if you know of even older AAC devices, we’d love to hear from you!

[1] Cicero, M.T. (1951) Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 60,137-146.
[2] Margaret E. Molloy, M.E. (1996)  Libanius and the Dancers, Olms-Weidmann, Hildesheim.
[3] Plutarch (1919). The Parallel Lives: The Life of Demosthenes. Vol VII, Loeb Classic Library Edition.