Language fMRI has been used to study brain regions involved in language processing and has been applied to pre-surgical language mapping. However, in order to provide clinicians with optimal information, the sensitivity and specificity of language fMRI needs to be improved. Type II error of failing to reach statistical significance when the language activations are genuinely present may be particularly relevant to pre-surgical planning, by falsely indicating low surgical risk in areas where no activations are shown. Furthermore, since the execution of language paradigms involves cognitive processes other than language function per se, the conventional general linear model (GLM) method may identify non-language-specific activations. In this study, we assessed an exploratory approach, independent component analysis (ICA), as a potential complementary method to the inferential GLM method in language mapping applications. We specifically investigated whether this approach might reduce type II error as well as generate more language-specific maps. Fourteen right-handed healthy subjects were studied with fMRI during two word generation tasks. A similarity analysis across tasks was proposed to select components of interest. Union analysis was performed on the language-specific components to increase sensitivity, and conjunction analysis was performed to identify language areas more likely to be essential. Compared with GLM, ICA identified more activated voxels in the putative language areas, and signals from other sources were isolated into different components. Encouraging results from one brain tumor patient are also presented. ICA may be used as a complementary tool to GLM in improving pre-surgical language mapping.