The “tongues’ at Corinth were not languages like Aramaic, Greek, or Latin. They were motor phenomena brought on under the excitement of religious experience. They could result from a genuine encounter with God. On the other hand, “tongues” could be an effect highly desired, expected, sought, and displayed for one’s own enhancement. The utterance was unintelligible. It was like the blowing of a trumpet in so garbled a way that soldiers would not know whether to arm for battles or go to bed. It was like listening to a “barbarian” whose speech conveyed no meaning. it left the understanding (nous) unfruitful. “Tongues” belong to the mind (phren) of a baby, not of a mature person. As an emotional, motor reaction, one could engage in “tongues” without use of his mind.
The first widespread incidence of glossolalia occurred in southern France. it followed in the wake of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685 and a fresh outburst of persecution of the French Hugenots.
The Cevenol peasants first reported hearing the singing of psalms in the air. later, after their antagonists had refused to believe their reports, “the poor shepherds” brought forward something more tangible. They claimed prophetic inspiration.
Among the first to make this boast, in 1688, was a young girl named Isabeau Vincent, a wool-carder’s daughter. Though familiar only with the native patois, when seized by ecstatic trance, the young girl was reported to have prophesied for hours in perfectly cultivated French.
--from A Brief History of Glossolalia by Frank Stagg, E. Glenn Hinson, Wayne E. Oates, a book which I picked up for fifty cents & do not in any way recommend to anyone
A small discussion of glossolalia on Ubuweb.
For all the poems that use glossolalia as a metaphor (& the way too many that use it as a title), has there been any serious aesthetic consideration of it as a public speech act? Most references I've seen to glossalalia kind of throw the word around willy-nilly.