Our knowledge about the variability of cerebral language lateralization is derived from studies of patients with brain lesions and thus possible secondary reorganization of cerebral functions. In healthy right-handed subjects 'atypical', i.e. right hemisphere language dominance, has generally been assumed to be exceedingly rare. To test this assumption we measured language lateralization in 188 healthy subjects with moderate and strong right-handedness (59% females) by a new non-invasive, quantitative technique previously validated by direct comparison with the intracarotid amobarbital procedure. During a word generation task the averaged hemispheric perfusion differences within the territories of the middle cerebral arteries were determined. (i) The natural distribution of language lateralization was found to occur along a bimodal continuum. (ii) Lateralization was equivalent in men and women. (iii) Right hemisphere dominance was found in 7.5% of subjects. These findings indicate that atypical language dominance in healthy right-handed subjects of either sex is considerably more common than previously suspected.