Contextual Determinants of Adjective Order: Beyond Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

AbstractPrevious research on adjective ordering in linguistics and psychology has focused primarily on the unmarked or default order of adjectives, as in large blue car. Inverted word order, as in blue large car, which violates the proposed semantic constraints on adjective placement, received relatively little attention. In two studies we show that the inverted order is not as limited in scope as previous researchers have argued. We propose that the inverted word order reflects the subjective distance principle: the attribute that is psychologically closer to the speaker is mentioned first. Our explanation draws on research on word order in binomials, thus connecting two previously unrelated research traditions on word order in linguistics and cognitive psychology.

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