What is Cryptophasia?

By Stacey
Aug 6, 2016 · 3 min

Cryptophasia is the name given for the secret language of twins!

What is Cryptophasia? | One Hour Translation

Cryptophasia is the name given for the secret language of twins! The twins may be fraternal or identical, but this phenomenon is a language developed between these two children that only they can understand. In the word Cryptophasia, crypto means secret and phasia mean speech. Today we understand that twin languages are not as unusual as originally thought, even for translation experts.

Idioglossia, or Autonomous Languages

Languages that have been invented and are only spoken by a few people are referred to as Idioglossia, or autonomous languages. Young people from every generation have been able to communicate secretly by developing a few code or slang words; but because twins are together from the moment of their birth, and because both their linguistic and mental development is so in sync, they’re more likely to invent a language that’s exclusive to themselves. This language will exclude everyone else - and this includes their parents and their peers. It’s believed that Cryptophasia occurs amongst almost 50% of twins, both fraternal and identical.

Looking Deeper into Cryptophasia

Interestingly, when we look a little deeper into Cryptophasia we discover that this phenomenon is most likely to be the toddlers’ mother tongue, but with words being mispronounced. Obviously, this is a phase that all children go through, but, because twins are able to understand each other to the exclusion of everyone else, it’s thought that these mistakes simply become reinforced while the mother tongue continuously flows around the children. In fact, in very rare cases a twin language can flourish throughout their lifetime, with neither of the children ever developing fluency in their mother tongue.

Of course, code languages have existed since the beginning of civilization, and they’ve been used in various circumstances and for various reasons. With Cryptophasia, the language developed by twins can reach astonishing levels of complexity, so-much-so that while it’s certainly fascinating, it can become quite disturbing for parents to see their children speaking in a strange language that only they can speak; a language that has its own vocabulary, forms and expressions - a language completely indecipherable to anyone other than the two children concerned. If there is a downside to Cryptophasia it’s that if-and-when the twins decide to, or are forced to learn their mother tongue, they often experience difficulties. Many of these twins retain a quasi-foreign accent for the rest of their lives.

Creating a New Language

Translation experts and people who have studied the topic of Cryptophasia believe that artificially creating a language like twins do is precisely how different languages have emerged throughout history. They start with simple words, evolving over time to include grammar and structures, and continue developing as the language expands throughout a group of people, and finally over generations.

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