This is a sensitive question, but there should be enough evidence of the correlation, if any, between the language spoken in different regions and their average IQ.


If there is a correlation between intelligence and one native language. There would suffice to proof that it exists with at least one kind of intelligence.

As the IQ is the indicator with more available data, it would suffice.

Now, as a personal observation.

Our brain has a limited capacity, regarding any skill. For instance, people with Savant syndrome, are exceptionally good on very specific tasks, but in general lack of the more general skills as socialization and communication.

Also, text and speech recognition are among the more expensive tasks to be done by any computer, requiring huge data bases and very fast processors. So that I suspect that our brains could face similar requirements regarding written language and speech.

Another thing to take into account, is that while there are very compact languages, also there are languages with very complex rules and irregularities, with huge alphabets, phonemes, and so on. And here, I have to be very careful, as I don't want to make any affirmation regarding any particular language.

So, if the price that our brain must pay to be able to master our native language, is to diminish other skills, it should have enough data to demonstrate either that there is a correlation between intelligence and one's native language, or the opposite, that they are not related at all.

  • 4
    Do you mean IQ score or actual intelligence? Higher IQs are correlated with higher intelligence but it is only an indicator, not proof. Beyond that IQ tests have some notorious cultural biases which would affect people's performance but not for linguistic reasons. In my answer I assumed you meant "intelligence" not explicitly "IQ"
    – acattle
    Commented Nov 24, 2012 at 8:18
  • 1
    You're coming in from the false assumption that our brains work like computers. They do not. Everything a computer does must, at it's core, be boiled down to a math problem. The human mind does not have that limitation. For us, recognizing language is easy (hard for a computer) while math problems are hard (but easy for a computer). Also, I find your "limited capacity" argument to be flawed as the human brain has the ability to change its structure based on usage.
    – acattle
    Commented Nov 25, 2012 at 3:01
  • 1
    +1 @acattle. Studies suggest that learning multiple languages expands the brain's capacity to do other cognitive tasks (see this blog entry) and may prevent memory loss and dementia (see this WebMD article), neither of which would be the case if brains were like computers and learning a language "used up" brain space. Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 18:10
  • 1
    @acattle: Actually you assume that language cannot also be boiled down to a math problem. I would say this is still a surprsingly open question. Math has many more fields besides those which resemble arithmetic. Computers are quite good at many symbol-manipulation tasks for instance. Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 5:06
  • @acattle: Another important issue is: how should we define intelligence here? The word is very vague on its own. What does it mean?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:38

3 Answers 3


Please see the comment I left on the question about intelligence vs. IQ. I am assuming the OP meant "intelligence" and was simply referring to IQ as a convenient measure.

Language alone is not an indicator of intelligence. Most introductory Linguistics courses will at least briefly cover Williams Syndrome, a form of developmental delay that characteristically presents with exceptional language skills. While it might not make sense that something that causes exceptional language skills could be classified as a developmental delay, you need to remember that when people talk about "intelligence", they are often talking about a wide range of independent skills (math, induction, memory, expertise on a specific topic, etc.).

However, you did not ask about the link between language and intelligence, you asked if one's native language can affect their intelligence. I couldn't find any research on that topic but I did find this paper which found that bilingualism has no noticeable effect on intelligence.

Another problem is that it would be almost impossible to attribute any differences to language alone. There are too many variables between different language speaking areas such as culture, education, and health care. I have found this paper which found evidence that quality of education can noticeably affect intelligence test results.

In summary, although I could not find any academic sources explicitly addressing your concern, I find it highly unlikely that one's native language affect intelligence levels and any differences that may exist cannot be reliably attributed to language as other factors have greater effect.

  • I also believe there are several kind of intelligence. I've updated my questions to be more specific, and added some personal observations too.
    – rraallvv
    Commented Nov 24, 2012 at 17:22
  • @rraallvv Even after your edit I still think my answer addresses your concern and shows that there is no link between language and intelligence/mental ability/mental capacity. What might be interesting to you is that there does seem to be a link between language and perception. Specifically, perception of gender and perception of colours. So language influences how our brains experience the world, but not our brains' ability/capacity/intelligence.
    – acattle
    Commented Nov 25, 2012 at 2:56

The problem with using measures like IQ test is the basis on which they have been devised and whether the tests are underpinned by ideas that are prevalent in one language culture, than another. If we take a weak linguistic relativity position here (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) then the means for comparison may be viewed as too deeply rooted or skewed in favour of a particular language/cultural perspective. Like many aspects of linguistic research there is the potential for observer's paradox.

  • "Recent research with non-linguistic experiments in languages with different grammatical properties (e.g. languages with and without numeral classifiers or with different gender grammar systems) showed that there are—to a certain degree—differences in human categorization due to such differences. But there is also experimental research suggesting, that this linguistic influence on thought is not of long continuance, but diminishes rapidly over time, when speakers of one language are immersed by another." source
    – rraallvv
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 12:47
  • ...hmm, it seems like any measurable difference is closely related to practical reasons. In which case learning a language that overcomes any possible deficiency in ours should suffice too.
    – rraallvv
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:02
  • Yes, I am aware of micro changes in German with verb use, as a result of the influence of English. Traditionally, Germans collocate 'have' and 'sense' together (it has sense), but American collocates 'make' and 'sense' (it makes sense). The English picture has started to dominate in many encounters between Germans, so much so that Germans will correct each other in favour of 'make sense' over 'has sense' when speaking in German.
    – Qube
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:29
  • I think that learning a language would not automatically equalise different human categorisation, as this is bound in cultural information that is not always presented in language learning. There are still lots of language classes that are psycholinguistic in their focus and not sufficiently the 'immersed' environment mentioned in your first comment.
    – Qube
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:31

Language-learning aptitude may be a veracious earmark of high intelligence, but, sadly, there is no scientific evidence to corroborate the supposition that there exists a native language-intelligence quotient correlation to stroke peoples' egos with and make them feel more intelligent than they are stupid.

There are medical conditions that seem capable of endowing greater-than-average linguistic dexterity in their sufferers, and there are even medical conditions which are presumed to positively correlate with higher IQ, imputing sufferers with potentiated or augmented cognitive ability as sequelae. There does not, in any case, seem to be one condition known to medicine capable of affecting both linguistic deftness and one's overall g factor concurrently.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.