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Do boys and girls have different language abilities?

Overall, there is much overlap in language skills among boys and girls, and differences in language skills are small. However, several studies have revealed the following:

  • Girls have greater brain activity in several known language areas:
    • The inferior frontal gyrus on both sides of the brain (an area especially involved in word meanings and other language functions).
    • The superior temporal gyrus on both sides of the brain (an area especially involved in the sounds of words).
    • The fusiform gyrus on the left side of the brain (an area especially involved in the spelling of words and their visual identification).
  • In general, the language-related brain activity in girls was on both sides of the brain whereas the activity in boys was only evident on the left side.
    • Reliance on different brain areas for accurate language performance suggests that boys and girls are processing language information differently.
  • Girls typically develop speech earlier than boys
  • Males are much more likely to be diagnosed with language problems, including stuttering.

Sources: D. Burman (2009. “Gender Differences in Language Abilities: Evidence from Brain Imaging”; D. Kimura (2000). “Sex and cognition”;  P. Howell, S. Davis & R. Williams (2008). “Late childhood stuttering”.