Idioglossia (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Idioglossia is a play by Mark Handley about a girl who grows up without modern culture learning how to speak. It was first performed in 1992 at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey.[1] The title comes from the medical term "idioglossia", meaning an idiosyncratic language that few speak, and associated with "cryptophasia".


In the deep back country, a local teenager boy discovers that a hemiplegic hermit has died. Local police and a doctor are taken to her primitive cabin, and discover a seemingly half-crazed woman who speaks what appears to be unintelligible babbling. At first, the woman is declared a wild child, and protective services needs to know if she is capable enough to live on her own. A linguist is called in to observe the woman to see if they can learn to speak her language. After intense interaction, the researchers learn that the woman's name is Nell, and that her distinctive speech is a combination of her mother's impairment – she'd had a stroke which paralyzed one side on her face – and an idioglossalic language she'd developed with her now dead sister.


In 1994 the play was adapted into the film Nell starring Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson.


  1. ^ Klein, Alvin (1992-11-08). "THEATER; A Search for Understanding and Love". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-03.