Magazine article Science News

2-Year-Olds Don't Talk in Sentences but Can Still Tell Nouns from Verbs: New Brain Study Suggests That Toddlers Know Basic Grammar

Magazine article Science News

2-Year-Olds Don't Talk in Sentences but Can Still Tell Nouns from Verbs: New Brain Study Suggests That Toddlers Know Basic Grammar

Article excerpt

Two-year-olds know more about grammar than they can say. Budding toddlers recognize the difference between nouns and verbs in simple sentences, even though the kids don't utter such sentences for at least another year, say Anne Christophe of the Laboratory of Cognitive Sciences and Psycholinguistics in Paris and her colleagues.

Children begin to use two or more words at a time by age 2, but their statements are typically incomplete and show no signs of grammatical knowledge. Yet upon hearing a sentence in which a noun incorrectly replaces a verb, or a verb incorrectly replaces a noun, toddlers display split-second brain responses that signal awareness of the rule violations, Christophe's team reports online June 29 in Developmental Science.

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Electrical activity, mainly relegated to the left-frontal brain, spiked when toddlers heard nouns in a verb position. Electrical responses farther back on the brain's left side, in the temporal lobe, jumped as toddlers heard verbs in a noun position. Both patterns resembled those that have already been implicated in noun and verb knowledge in adults. …

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