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Linguistic Intelligence: The "Word Smart" Intelligence

Updated on May 22, 2010

Language has long been a fascination to scientists and researchers. How does a small child develop language skills? In which ways do we show language development? How does various disabilities and disorders affect this development? Because of this preoccupation linguistic intelligence is arguably the most researched of Gardner's nine intelligences.

Linguistic Intelligence is called the "Word Smart" intelligence because it balances its whole existence on the foundation of language. Language can be expressed in three ways:  written, oral, and non-verbal.  For the purpose of this article we will focus on written and oral communication.  These two are closely related; in fact, written language cannot exist without the oral-auditory area of the brain. However, in terms of linguistic intelligence, written and oral are seen as different entities as one person may excel in written language but fall apart when asked to give a speech. 

This article should not, however, give you the false impression that auditory development is included in the linguistic intelligence as a deaf child can develop speech without ever hearing a sound.  We will talk about this area of development in my next installment in this series when I cover musical intelligence.

This article is a perfect example of every facet of linguistic intelligence coming together. I wrote this article, using my intelligence to choose the right words and form the ideas into flowing paragraphs. You are using your intelligence to read and understand what I have written. Later, you may relay this information orally to a friend or colleague and your explanation shows your intelligence for the spoken word.

Types of Linguistic Intelligence


Birth To School Age

You may see the developing child exhibiting a fascination with books. They may like to be read to for hours, may spend countless more hours reading themselves, and may enjoy retelling the story to any sympathetic ear. A child may learn to use words early, develop their vocabulary early, use big words and perfect grammar at a young age, and when they are old enough to carry on a conversation will talk your ear off for the next forty years. Many children may learn to read at two or three years of age, and, in some rare cases, teach themselves how to read.  Imitation is another outlet for children as they learn to copy others' verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Oh, and that child that has the most convincing argument for why they can stay up an hour past their bedtime on a school night? Yep, linguistic intelligence at work, my friend.

School Age To Young Adulthood

School age children, as well as young adults attending college, may find that certain study habits help them to achieve. While some linguistically intelligent students will have a knack for remembering written information, others may find that organizing lists or using mnemonic devices to remember facts will be of great help. Students who study foreign language may find it easy to understand, conjugating verbs and pronouncing the foreign sounds may come naturally to them. Many are very good listeners and spell with ease. These learners do best in a lecture setting, taking notes, reading from a textbook, and are not afraid to ask questions.


Adults can find many creative outlets for their intelligence. For instance, maybe you like to do word puzzles or games. You may get great enjoyment out of jokes, puns, or riddles. You might feel compelled to write stories or articles, or maybe you have a thirst for information and choose to read books, magazines, or newspapers to learn more about the world around you. Perhaps you feel the need to speak your mind, or speak up for the rights of others.

Sharpen Your Skills

There are many ways to improve or hone your skills in linguistics. Some you can do privately while others require a little more courage to show off your intelligence.

Privately, you may want to make up stories in your head. Practice writing them down, or possibly orally tell a friend or relative. Debate topics with your family and friends. Study up, choose a side, and defend your opinion; with any luck you might be able to make them think twice about theirs. Similarly, simply discuss with another person certain issues or ideas. Keep a journal to write your thoughts, feelings, or ideas. Write poems or personal essays for yourself or others to read. Try to lengthen your emails, or find a penpal to write to. Play the word games that you love, or take vocabulary tests online. And, of course, read, read, read!

If you're looking for more of a thrill try to do something publicly. Publish a blog or write articles for sites like hubpages. Try writing editorials for your local newspaper and sound off on an issue close to your heart. Try joining a debate club or find a similar outlet. Join Toastmasters to refine your public speaking skills. Volunteer to be a guest speaker for a high school or college class.

Skills and Careers

Linguistically Intelligent people are often very sensitive to grammar, spelling, word meaning, form, and context which make them great for the writing field:  poets, novelists, journalists, copywriters, bloggers, scriptwriters, speech writers, editors, publicists, linguists, and historians.

They are also talented at relaying information orally, which make them great for careers that involve speaking and explaining:  teachers, politicians, religious leaders, lawyers, television reporters, broadcasters, orators, seminar presenters, actors/actresses, advocates, interpreters, and tour guides.

Multiple Intelligence Series

This is part of a series I am writing about Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  Please see my other articles for more information on the other eight intelligences.



Gardner, Howard.  Frames Of Mind:  The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences.  New York:  Basic Books, 2004

"Linguistic Intelligence."  Willy Walnut.  22 May 2010.


"Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence."  myPersonality.  22 May 2010. 


"Theory Of Multiple Intelligences."  Wikipedia.  21 May 2010.  22 May 2010


Meetu.  "Verbal Linguistic Intelligence."  6 Apr. 2010 Brighthub.  22 May 2010. 



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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      :) ok

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I will do all of the above to sharpen more my linguistic intelligence..... thanks!!!!

    • asmaiftikhar profile image


      7 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks a lot for this informative article .that really helps me to sharpen the skills of English language.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      thank you helps a lot for my report in childhood and adoloscene development coz my topic is about multiple intelligence..

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      im in a way:)

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      I agree whole heartedly and we aim to to introduce a third language before then - I also understand that if a brain has been subjected (for want of a better word) by more language by 7 or 8 then they are able to learn more languages as they get older.

    • perihelionecho profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Billy! The best time to teach children foreign language is before the age of eight. They absorb not only the vocabulary but the subtle accents as well. After the age of 8 the ability to absorb language is greatly reduced. Still possible! But the margin for complete success is lower. This is where public school systems fail. They may teach foreign language to students, but only basic vocab. They don't begin to teach conversational language until high school, long after the 8 year mark has passed.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      A great hub and follow through. I have 2 young sons that we have started at Montessori from a young age and part of her teachings is the differents ages for language development. When the young mind is most suitable to it. It is quite amazing, the two boys were exposed to different languages differently, one from a few months the other from around 18 months and that gives a difference, a confidence but noticeably they both have a strong understanding and flip between the right accents. Something their Dad can't do :)

    • perihelionecho profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Hummingbird! Language is fascinating in itself. I am often intrigued by the thought of how many different sounds there are present in the languages of the world. The rolling r's, the "phlegm-y" h sounds, even the very rare clicks and pops. In college, I actually mulled over becoming a linguist so that I could study these sorts of things.

    • perihelionecho profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks CC for the words of encouragement! It's comments like these that keep me writing.

    • Hummingbird5356 profile image


      9 years ago

      Steven Pinker says in his book "The Language Instinct" that speaking is something we do automatically. It is something inbuilt which we cannot influence. That would also explain why deaf children who have not heard speech also speak.

      We cannot stop ourselves. We are not meant to be mute.

      You wrote a very good article. Thanks.

    • careconservation profile image


      9 years ago from Global

      Nice work! Gardner is amazing! I look forward to reading more from you :0)


    • perihelionecho profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you Winsome! Above all else, I believe that linguistic intelligence is my main intelligence. I am FAR from a perfect writer, but I am always looking for something to write about and something to read and learn about. Thanks for the comment!

    • Winsome profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      What a great idea PE, I will learn a lot about the different intelligences by the time you are through. Which of the eight is your main? =:)


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