Loads of native English speakers lack even a basic understanding of the language, according to a surprising new study from Northumbria University. The researchers gathered a group of adults, some of whom were postgraduates students, and some who had dropped out of school at age 16, and tested them on the meaning of a series of fairly simple sentences, like, "The soldier was hit by the sailor."
The post-graduates did fine, but the dropouts quickly began to make mistakes. Some performed no better than chance. The findings are groundbreaking, Science Daily explains. "Of course some people are more literate," one researcher says, but until now consensus has held that everyone has a basic, functional grasp of grammar. The findings could lead to changes in the wording of official notices, and in literacy education.