Do Twins Usually Have A Secret Language?

The popular McLure twins

Either you know a set of twins, or you’re one half to a twin pair yourself. Regardless, you’ve probably heard stories of your local twins speaking in their own language as kids. Maybe you and your twin still have this language years later into adulthood. Twin psychology has been a hot topic of study for a really long time, and language is no different. So in the eyes of science, outside the land of anecdotes; do twins have a secret language?

Do Twins Have a Secret Language?

Understanding Cryptophasia

So yes, it turns out twins and secret languages are an observable phenomenon. And as you’ve probably guessed from the subtitle, it’s referred to as cryptophasia. Honestly though, after directly translating the word, it seems like too general of a term. Splitting the word into its two Greek parts, you get “secret language”. The implication would be that cryptophasia also applies to people who aren’t twins, but there isn’t enough documentation to really support that.

See Also: Twi Among The Top 10 Fastest Growing Languages In USA

However, as a side note, there is idioglossia–which is kind of a more general cryptophasia. This roughly translates to “personal tongue”.

But back to cryptophasia–it’s not too uncommon with young twin pairs, hovering somewhere around 50%. So we guess if you ever find twins you can flip a coin to see if they have a secret language or not.

How Do Secret Languages Develop?

It’s more or less likely that twins develop their own little languages as a result of learning how language works. The languages developed between twins tends to take the form of simple noise expressions or even neologisms. Because cryptophasia is generally associated with younger children, the languages are constrained by the noises younger children can make–and as such tend to be distorted forms of their parent language. By parent language we mean the language the kids are exposed to most–kind of like how babies babble differently depending on their parent’s language.

However, these languages seem to have some kind of logic and structure. Granted, anyone who isn’t in on it won’t be able to understand whatever logic goes into constructing the language. As far as observation goes, we can’t say more about how it comes about other than “kids trying to mimic the adults around them.”

See Also: 40 Indigenous Ghanaian Languages Are Reportedly On The Brink Of Extinction

Is There a Cause for Cryptophasia?

Almost ironically, cryptophasia is generally associated with a delay in language development skills in children. It’s a pretty logical conclusion, though. Remember that the language shared by twins does not have to follow the phonology or structure of any language that we speak. Since the twins can communicate with each other using this language, they will have a bit less of a need to develop language skills as quickly.

There seem to be ties with language exposure as well–which also makes sense. If twins aren’t exposed to their parents’ language all that much, they’re going to end up making their own.


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