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Learning how to read may have some disadvantages for learning grammar. Children who cannot read yet often treat multiword phrases as wholes ("how-are-you"). After learning to read, children notice individual words more, as these are separated by spaces in written language ("how are you").
The early focus on larger units may have positive effects, and explain why young children are so good at learning certain areas of grammar, say scientists from the PSL University of Paris, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They found that preliterate six-year-olds were better at learning grammatical relations between words than at learning novel words in an artificial language learning study. After learning to read, these children lost their grammatical advantage.
Adults - Problems - Relations - Agreement - Nouns
Adults typically have problems with learning grammatical relations such as agreement between nouns and their gendered articles (is the Spanish word for problem "la problema" or "el problema?"). Young children are much better at learning such arbitrary relations among words. Children's superior learning skills may be due to their age and brain flexibility. However, according to Naomi Havron and her colleagues, children's advantage in grammar learning may also be due to their inability to read. This idea is based on Inbal Arnon's Starting Big hypothesis, which states that younger children are better learners because they focus more on multiword units and less on individual words. The researchers predicted that children should excel at learning certain grammatical relations between words before they become literate. After learning how to read, they should pay more attention to single words, which hinders learning relations between words.
To test children's learning abilities, the researchers created a new language. This artificial language contained eight new nouns for existing items, such as "keba" for clock and "nadi" for chair, paired with one of two new "gender articles": "do"...
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