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An Application Tool for the MBTI Instrument.

Type Languages, Dialects, Styles and the Extraverted Function

Is there a Relationship?
Henry L. Thompson, Ph.D.

May 1, 1997

One of the outcomes that Isabel Briggs Myers had in mind for the MBTI ® was to increase the effectiveness of communication among people. In her book Gifts Differing, Myers (1980) outlines techniques for increasing the effectiveness of communication. Murray (1989) provides guidance for improving interpersonal communication through the use of worksheets and cards that can be used to practice communication enhancing techniques. Kummerow (1989) and Schemel and Borbely (1982) have also published materials designed to improve communication. Communicating more effectively using psychological type is taught in MBTI professional qualifying programs. Almost every book on psychological type includes a section on communication. Numerous models have been designed by authors and practitioners to aid in communication.

In general, type communication models tend to be difficult to use, and are based more on theory and anecdote than on empirical data. For example, most type communication materials provide information on how to communicate with an extravert or a Thinker or a judger, but not how to effectively communicate with a specific type such as an “ESTJ.” The models also tend to look at groups as being primarily extraverted, Sensing, Thinking or judging, but fail to take into account that psychological type is a system (Thompson, 1996) influenced by type dynamics, type development and the environment.

Attempts to define how to use type to enhance communication fall into one of six approaches. These range from focusing on two polar preferences (Hirsh & Kummerow, 1989; Bar & Bar, 1989) to focusing on eight individual preferences ( Murray , 1989). Currently, the four-language approach seems to be the most prevalent method of teaching communication using type. This approach is based on the theoretical assumption that all types primarily speak one of four languages—Sensing, iNtuiting, Thinking or Feeling. Which language a particular type speaks is driven, theoretically, by the extraverted function. That is, the function that is used to engage the outer world is the “language” heard by others.

The languages were operationalized based on specific characteristics found in the speech patterns that are associated with the four functions. If Sensing is driving the language a particular type is speaking, the observer should hear a non-judgmental presentation of facts concerning the past or present, a concrete, agenda-driven focus, action orientation and descriptions. The iNtuiting language (the opposite of Sensing) tends to be an almost stream-of-consciousness, future-oriented, exaggerated and scattered flow of thoughts. It should be noted here that the languages are presented as if they are isolated from the other functions, and somewhat in the extreme. In practice, the primary language is often colored by the secondary language.

The best known empirical study on type languages comes from Yeakley’s (1982) award winning research on psychological type and communication. Although an excellent piece of research, it was based on the theoretical premise (rather than empirical data) that not only does each type have a primary language that is determined by the extraverted function, but also a second, third and fourth language,and a preferential sequence for use of the languages that is also determined by type preference.

Yeakley’s language preference sequence is shown in Table 3. Yeakley used the type development sequence as the basis for the third and fourth choices for communicating. In extraverts, the dominant function is extraverted; consequently, their communication preference sequence follows along nicely with their type development sequence as predicted by type theory. With introverts, however, the formula changes. Introverts prefer to interact with the outside world using the auxiliary function rather than the dominant. Thus, their first choice for communication is the auxiliary function and their second choice is the dominant function.For the third and fourth preferences, Yeakley uses the last two functions in the introvert’s type development sequence. (Note: I discovered in 1983 that extraverts agreed with Yeakley's sequence, but introverts did not. After some experimentation, I found that introverts use the same sequence as extraverts. [See Thompson, 1995 for a detailed explanation of the rationale.] Research also indicated that environmental factors can cause shifts in a person's language sequence.)

Yeakley’s approach was to not only look at the similarity between type letters, but to make comparisons of similarity based on a Communication Adjustment Index (CAI). The CAI is based on a direct comparison of two types’ language preference sequence. This provided a magnitude of adjustment required between the two types to communicate effectively.

In 1983, Yeakley presented more definitive statistical data in support of his theory. He was unable, however, to find statistical significance in several of the similarity patterns. Other researchers were unsuccessful in their attempts to support his theory. Although Cary (1984) managed to find limited support, Yeakley published a cautionary note in 1984 advising researchers not to invest time and energy trying to use his system.

Hammer (1994) adapted Yeakley’s CAI by calculating the CAI for each dyad in a team and multiplying the average by 100 to create a Team Communication Adjustment Index (TCAI). There have been at least two studies based on the TCAI (Reynolds, 1990; Metts, 1995) and four others ( Blaylock, 1983; Jannes, 1984; Brocato, 1985; McDowell, 1985 Bradshaw, 1986) reported by Hammer and Huszczo (1996) whose data were reanalyzed using the TCAI. The studies provide some support for a relationship between type language similarity and communication effectiveness.

The idea behind a language approach to enhancing communication effectiveness is for two people to communicate with each other using the same language. If their primary languages are different, one of them must change languages to match the other.

If type is the result of the dynamic interaction of the four functions and attitudes (Thompson, 1996), then one would theoretically expect a person speaking a Thinking language (ESTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, INTJ) to use the perceiving function in support of that language. Thus, an STJ would sound different from an NTJ because of the different supporting function. Preliminary unpublished research has indicated this to be the case (Thompson, 1995). This difference in the languages has been referred to elsewhere (Thompson, 1995) as a dialect. Consequently, each language has two dialects, resulting in a total of eight. Figure 1 shows the dialect breakout.






T S N F 


T S F N 


T N S F 


T N F S 


F S N T 


F N T S 


F N S T 


F N T S 


S T F N 


S T N F 


N T F S 


N T S F 


S F T N 


S F N T 


N F T S 


N F S T 

Table 1

Yeakley’s Language Preference Sequence

A dialect is a particular form or variation of a language shared by a subgroup that differs from the remaining population. Unlike languages, which can be unintelligible to those who do not speak them routinely, dialects can normally be interpreted by those who speak the language of which the dialect is a part. A Type dialect is the result of a functional pair (perceiving & judging functions) combination and the direction of this interaction as determined by the orientation preference (J or P). Most practitioners can easily detect differences in the dialects.

Another impact of the secondary language (introverted function) is that at certain times, it becomes extraverted and is sent forward to deal with the outside world. That is, a person communicates using his/her secondary language. The STP sometimes makes a temporary change from Sensing to Thinking; the SFP makes a temporary change from Sensing to Feeling. If one or both of them changes from their primary language of Sensing to their secondary language during a conversation with each other, communication problems could suddenly increase significantly.

A dialect model is obviously more expansive than a functional-pair model. A functional-pair model does not take into account the impact of the language, i.e., the extraverted function. For example, the functional pair SF could result in a person speaking the Sensing language supported by Feeling (an SFJ dialect) or the Feeling language supported by Sensing (an SFP dialect).

The dialect model would also be expected to be more effective than the temperament model. For example, the SJ temperament might speak Thinking supported by Sensing (an STJ dialect) or Feeling supported by Sensing (an SFJ dialect). This dramatic difference in language predisposes confusion when conversing using the temperament model. The SP temperament tends to speak either Sensing (primary) supported by Thinking or Feeling; the NF temperament tends to speak iNtuiting or Feeling and the NT temperament tends to speak iNtuiting or Thinking.

A logical extension of the type dynamics theory would be to consider the impact of attitude (E & I) and dominant and auxiliary processes on the dialect. With these added factors, each dialect expands into two styles (Thompson, 1995). The styles would be expected to provide a further discrimination of communication such that an ENTJ would sound different from an INTJ.

The pervasiveness of type theory and its widespread use in organizations calls for a verification of theoretical predictions, especially where interpersonal interventions are concerned. With the MBTI already under attack (McCrae & Costa, 1989; Spoto, 1989 & 1995; Garden, 1991), it is time to validate some of its most basic theoretical assumptions. The purpose of this study was to address the basic premise of type communication: “Do people really communicate using the extraverted function?” A by-product of the study was to indirectly look for evidence to support the dialect and style models.


The participants consisted of 64 males and 78 females ranging in age from 19 to 55 representing 15 MBTI types. They came from various parts of the country to participate in the training sessions. All participants completed the MBTI Form G before attending the sessions and validated their type preferences during the training.

To assess the actual language spoken by the participants, each was observed and rated on a set of objective criteria while introducing themselves at the beginning of the training session. Each participant responded to the following questions; Name, Job, Place of Birth, Current Residence, Family, Hobbies & Interests and Greatest Leadership Challenge. Participant responses ranged from approximately two-seven minutes in length. The questions predisposed responses based on Sensing (name, job, etc.), iNtuiting (hobbies & interests, greatest challenge), Thinking (following the introduction format, logical responses) and Feeling (family, interests, leadership challenge). These sessions were also video taped (with the permission of the participants) to allow for detailed analysis of the responses.


Basic Statistics

Table 5 shows a type table of the sample used in the study. The distribution of gender (males=45%, females=55%), EI (E=52%, I=48%), SN (S=36%, N=65%), TF (T=56%, F=44%) and JP (J=55%, P=45%) indicates a balanced sample that approximates the U.S. population distribution found by Hammer & Mitchell (1996). All but one of the types (ISFP) were represented in the sample.

Language Analysis

Spearman’s R was chosen as the correlational analytic technique because, like a Pearson Product Moment Correlation, it presents the portion of variability accounted for, except that it is computed from ranks instead of continuous data. It assumes that the variables can be measured on an ordinal scale and can be ranked into two ordered series. This allowed for comparisons between languages predicted by a participant’s type and the language actually spoken by that participant. Table 6 clearly shows a highly significant correlation (R=.51, p<.001) between the extraverted function and the language spoken during the introduction. In each case, the data clearly show the expected language to have the highest percentage of occurrence.

The males did not have as strong a correlation (R=.35, p<.01) between the extraverted function (primary language) and spoken language as the females (R=.63, p<.001). Both extraverts (R=.55, p<.001) and introverts (R=.46, p<.001) had high correlations between primary language and spoken language. The functional preferences of the types did not have a significant impact on the overall correlation between primary languages and spoken languages (Sensing=.65, p<.001; iNtuiting=.49, p<.001; Thinking=.41, p<.001; Feeling=.55, p<.001). The JP scale, however, did show a difference. The participants with a preference for J had a highly significant correlation between primary language and spoken language. Participants with a preference for P did not show an overall statistically significant correlation.

Dialect Analysis

To assess the dialect hypothesis, the sample was divided into eight dialects. The language patterns (dialects) were analyzed using contingency tables and Chi-square interpretation with the expectation of finding the primary language occurring with the greatest frequency and the dialect’s supporting language, the second highest. For example, the STP dialect would be expected to show a pattern of primarily Sensing language supported by Thinking. Only minor occurrences of iNtuiting and Feeling would be expected. The data shows this to be true (Sensing=50%, Thinking=50%). Each dialect shows the primary language to have the highest percentage and the supporting language to have the second highest, X 2 (1, 21)= 175.1, p<.001).

Functional Pair Analysis

The functional pair analysis indicates that the ST pair is divided between Sensing (26.7%) and Thinking (70%) with a very small percentage of the iNtuiting (3.3%) language and no Feeling language. The SF pair is also divided between Sensing (16.7) and Feeling (77.8%) with a small percentage of iNtuiting (5.6%) and no Thinking. The NF pair was divided between iNtuiting (67.6%) and Feeling (32.4%) with no Sensing or Thinking. The NT pair was divided between iNtuiting (45%) and Thinking (52.5%) with just a small percentage of the Sensing (2.5%) language and no Feeling.

Temperament Analysis

This portion of the analysis looked at the languages spoken by the different temperaments. The results indicated that the SJ temperament spoke primarily Thinking (43.6%) and Feeling (35.9%) with some Sensing (15.4%) and a small amount of iNtuiting (5.1%). The SP temperament spoke primarily Sensing (55.6%) and Thinking (44.4%) with no iNtuiting or Feeling. The NF temperament spoke iNtuiting (67.6%) and Feeling (32.4%) with no Sensing or Thinking. The NT temperament spoke Thinking (52.5%) and iNtuiting (45%) with a small amount of Sensing (2.5%) and no Feeling.

Style Analysis

All styles had a primary language as would be expected, with the exception of ISFP and ENFJ. The ISFP did not have a clear language identified in the rating process, but was entered into the database to allow for non-language computations. The ENFJs had 50% for both iNtuiting and Feeling languages, thus, not showing a clear preference between the primary and secondary languages. A comparison of the frequency of occurrence of primary languages at the style level reveals a more consistent use of the primary language by extraverts than introverts for Sensing types and the reverse for iNtuiting types (with the exception of the ENTJ (83.3%) and INTJ (60%) styles.



The data provide support for the theoretical position that the extraverted function is a significant contributing factor in predicting the language a particular type will speak. When the predicted language was not the one used in the introductions, almost without fail, the secondary language was used. This suggests that changing from the primary to secondary language may be relatively easy in most cases. Another possibility is that environmental factors such as work, parental influence, recent trauma, type development, etc., can cause a change in the language of choice.

This study suggests that researchers should proceed with caution when using type to predict a person’s primary spoken language. Just as psychological type is a dynamic system, so is the language sub-system. Most people can change from their primary to secondary language with relative ease. In fact, this study found that some participants changed languages at least once during a conversation as short as three minutes. If matching languages is the key to effective type communication, then the most important skill for communicating effectively may be listening. Although the primary and secondary languages have the highest probability of being spoken, a person can speak the third and fourth languages. Listening to identify the language being spoken is much more important than trying to “type” the person.

Changing Languages

Observation of participants speaking their secondary language, as predicted by type, revealed a noticeable change in personality. Extraverts seemed to become quiet; introverts became extraverted. The observed behavior of language changes, whether the participant was aware or unaware of the change, produced the same results.

When an NTJ switches to the secondary language of iNtuiting, it requires a shift not only in language, but also a shift in orientation from J to P. Because iNtuiting is a perceiving language, judging must stop in order to use it. Therefore, the switch from Thinking to iNtuiting also switches the dialect from NTJ to NTP.

The difficulty of changing from a judging language to a perceiving one is particularly evident in brainstorming sessions. One of the primary brainstorming rules is “no judging of others’ ideas during the idea-generation phase.” Those who have to change from a judging language (T or F) to a perceiving one (S or N) find it difficult to remain in a perceptive mode during the entire session. After all, the sometimes wacky ideas produced in a brainstorming session produce a target-rich environment for the Judging language’s criticism.

The above describes what happens to the orientation dimension when changing languages, but what about attitude? When an INTJ changes from Thinking to iNtuiting, does the attitude also change? The answer appears to be “yes.” To assist in the explication of the rationale for this, an annotated type code will be used. The dominant (D) and auxiliary (A) functions and their attitudes, extraversion (e) and introversion (i), will be designated, e.g., IN DiT AeJ.

In order to switch from the Thinking language to the iNtuiting language, an INTJ must extravert as a perceptive (P). Thus, the dialect, N DiT AeJ changes to N DeT AiP. The IN AeT DiP style extraverts the auxiliary function N Ae, supported by the dominant, introverted function T Di. The INTJ’s new dialect, N DeT AiP, does not match the INTP dialect, N AeT DiP; it actually changed to match the dialect of an EN DeT AiP. Observation of introverts changing from their primary to secondary language reveals a sudden “burst of extraversion.” When introverts change to their secondary language, they temporarily become extraverts. The INTJ becomes an ENTP!

When extraverts change from their primary to their secondary languages, they temporarily become introverts . For example, when EN AiT DeJs change from the primary language of Thinking to the secondary of iNtuiting, they change to the IN AeT DiP style. Thus, Js become Ps, Ps become Js, extraverts become introverts and introverts become extraverts.


Although dialects were not tested directly, there was indirect evidence to support a dialect model over functional pairs or temperaments for teaching communication. Observation of participants speaking revealed that it is relatively easy to discriminate between the dialects of a particular language, e.g., NTJ and NTP. The analysis of languages spoken by functional pairs indicated a dichotomous distribution of languages suggested by the dialect model. This lends further support for dialects over functional pair languages or the dialects as used by Hirsh (1992), Gladis (1993)and Brock (1994).

When dialects are compared to the communication patterns found in the four temperaments, a dichotomous language distribution predicted by the dialect model is found. Thus, when teaching or conducting research using a temperament model, the practitioner should consider using the language/dialect model presented here.

An observation made during data collection was that identifying dialects requires more skill than identifying languages. Sometimes the primary language is so strong that it blocks out the supporting language. At other times, the person switches so rapidly between the primary and secondary languages that in a short conversation, it becomes difficult to determine which language/dialect is primary.

Style Analysis

The analysis of the languages spoken by style suggests that the dominant function may have a stronger effect on the primary language of Sensing types who are extraverted and ENTJs, resulting in a higher frequency of use of the primary language. Type predicts that for extraverts, their primary language will match their dominant function. If the primary language matches the dominant function, then one would expect a strong propensity to use the primary language in most situations. Introverts would be expected to change to their secondary language more easily than extraverts, because this language is driven by their strongest, favorite function.

The easiest shift would be for an extravert speaking his/her secondary language (auxiliary function) to switch to the primary language (dominant function). The imbalance created by operating (communicating) in the non-preferred function would be expected to create an attraction toward the primary language (dominant function). This same attraction would make it difficult for an extravert to shift from the primary to secondary language. The functional tractor beam should make it easier for an introvert to shift from the primary language (auxiliary process) to the secondary language (dominant process). The data in this study support this hypothesis.

This study was the first to operationalize, categorize and evaluate type languages. Although arguments could be made that the environment in which the data were collected could have influenced it, the evidence, nonetheless, supports a language, dialect and style model.

Future research needs to be conducted to identify the power of language-influencing factors such as stress, emotions, type development and situational demands. This study found anecdotal evidence for a variety of factors that make the dynamics of language very complex.

Ethical questions often arise when practitioners propose training to enhance a person’s ability to communicate effectively and, consequently, more easily influence someone else. The true power of type languages can be dramatic.


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Copyright © 1997 Henry L. Thompson, Ph.D. All rights reserved.


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