A Canadian (who also knows some Cantonese) gave me a link to an article citing research that has discovered "that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences."
I'm not surprised by this, and actually think that because the researchers assumed "that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues", they were inevitably going to run into results that would contradict that assumption.
Specifically, they discovered that "A high proportion of those who had left school at 16 began to make mistakes" and "a proportion of people with low educational attainment make errors with understanding the passive, and it appears that this and other important areas of core grammar may not be fully mastered by some speakers, even by adulthood."
I think it's quite obvious that more education or more exposure to complex reading and writing will lead to an understanding of more complex grammar. One thing that bothered me when I was studying education and language acquisition in school was that everyone would gather around a theory, and if I would suggest anecdotal or observational evidence that would contradict what they were saying, they would dismiss it because the research didn't show that. But my experience did, so why diss it? Sometimes I think that academia doesn't tolerate exceptions because it messes up their tidy little package that they want to present to their peers.
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