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Twin Language

June 19, 2007

A listener asks: Do twins have their own secret languages?


Do twins create private languages? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Twins often share a strong bond, but listener Tony Skura of Nome, Alaska, emailed us to ask if they ever share a secret language. Professor Michael Rutter of the Institute of Psychiatry in London has looked into this phenomenon, which has been widely reported. He found that on close inspection, only 6 percent of the twins he studied used a separate language that they alone could understand.

MICHAEL RUTTER (Institute of Psychiatry, London):
Most of the apparent secret language is probably just a normal developmental phenomenon. That’s to say when children are just learning to speak, it’s common for the brothers and sisters to understand better than the parents do.

And this may be especially pronounced in families with twins, since twins are the same age and develop language in parallel. If you’ve got a science question, call us at 1-800-WHYISIT. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.