Linguistic Intelligence

||| "The Father of Waters rolls unvexed to the sea" was General Grant's telegraph to President Lincoln on the fall of Vicks-burg during the Civil War. What a melodic, stunning report. Someone not so facile with the language might have said, "Enemy defeated at Vicksburg. Mississippi River now under Union control." Lincoln, himself, days later while delivering the Gettysburg Address, used the robust passage "Four score and seven years ago" to replace the austere phrase "In 1776."

Some people, such as Grant and Lincoln, possess such a high linguistic intelligence that their ability to create finely crafted sentences progresses beyond precision and accuracy into the realm of an art form. Whereas the left hemisphere specializes in understanding literal meaning, there is good evidence that the right hemisphere helps in understanding and generating metaphors, humor, and irony. Subjects with damage to the right hemisphere understand words in an extremely literal manner. When asked to show appreciation for a performance and "give someone a hand," they would try to find a toy hand to give. When asked to complete jokes, the result would be senseless, awkward, and not in the least humorous.17 The creative ability and imaginative use of words, located largely in the right hemisphere, is the essence that raises technical merit to a creative painting of pictures that evoke strong emotions and vivid interactions.

Khabir the Storyteller relates African and African-American stories and folktales in the oral tradition. Khabir may spin traditional African folktales in the style of the griot, he may use firstperson interpretation in the character of Martin Delany (an African-American Civil War officer), or he may use some other character. In any case, audience participation is an essential part of Khabir's presentations. Khabir, at 50 years old, has been a professional storyteller for 10 years.

"I like sharing stories that enhance understanding of African and African-American history and culture and reinforce good social values," Khabir says.

He likes to use stories that are stimulating, sometimes humorous, and presented in an entertaining way.

According to Gardner in Frames of Mind, everyone can aspire to master four main objectives:

1. Rhetoric—use of language to convince another individual that your opinion is correct

2. Mnemonic—use of language to remember other information

3. Explanation—use of language for teaching and learning

4. Metalinguistic—use of language for analyzing previous statements for clarification or correction

Mastery of language and its uses requires expert knowledge and use of phonology (word sounds that interact), semantics (the meaning of words), and syntax (rules of word order to use as expected or changed to draw attention to a particular idea or image). Individual elements of a task (in this case, phonology, semantics, and syntax) may be localized within a specific area of the brain. These elements and their respective areas are activated in any number of combinations to complete that task.

The specific areas designated for these three elements are shown in the figure. These areas are referred to as Broca's area (linguistic production) and Wernicke's area (comprehension of linguistics). The area for processing sign language is located just below Wernicke's area18 (see Figure 2-8).

These areas are not the only ones used for linguistics. Marble-sized areas of neurons, primarily scattered through the left temporal and parietal lobes, specialize in functions such as nouns, individual rules of grammar, and production of verbs. You might be interested to know what parts of the brain exhibit the most activity when thinking and speaking words.

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