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One part of acquiring syntax is the ability to recognize relationships between phrases and within and between sentences. Syntactic dependencies often occur over several words and phrases. Two types of structures will be examined for this entry: discontinuous dependencies, such as those found in grammatical agreement, and long-distance questions. Evidence from infant-speech perception studies suggests that children attend to patterns of grammatical agreement beginning near the first birthday and have the ability to track grammatical relationships well before they are 2. Evidence from long-distance questions suggests that children as young as 3 are able to both produce and comprehend such questions. Debate remains as to the best theories to explain the patterns of acquisition found.
Grammatical relationships are an important feature of many languages. Sentences ...