LINGUIST List 12.2929

Mon Nov 26 2001

Qs: Prenominal Adj Order, Amerindian Typologies

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  1. Stefan Th. Gries, prenominal adjective order in English
  2. ewb2, Amerindian language typologies

Message 1: prenominal adjective order in English

Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 23:12:11 +0100
From: Stefan Th. Gries <>
Subject: prenominal adjective order in English

Dear colleagues

I am posting the following query on behalf of a student who is not a list
member; please send any replies directly to her at
Stefan Th. Gries
IFKI, Southern Denmark University

Query follows: - ---------------------------- I am currently writing
my MA thesis on determinants of non-contextually constrained
prenominal adjective order. I would like to conduct a corpus analysis
comprising all variables proposed so far. However, the semantic
factors which have been claimed to influence the ordering have all
been tested experimentally, so the question is how one can
operationalize them if subjects' ratings are not available. The
(probably interrelated) variables in question are the following three:

1) the adjective's closeness to the noun in meaning (also referred to
as inherentness, proximity, intrinsicalness, semantic closeness or
substantiveness) Color adjectives have been argued to denote a more
inherent property of the object they modify than, say, adjectives
denoting size. Since more inherent adjectives stand closer to the
noun, 'big red flower' is preferred over 'red big flower'.

2) the adjective's independence from comparison E.g., 'heavy round
flowerpot' should be more acceptable than 'round heavy flowerpot'
because, in a given set of flowerpots, a round one may be identified
only by looking for the round flowerpot itself whereas the selection
of a heavy flowerpot requires the comparison of at least some other

3) the adjective's independence from context (also referred to as
definiteness of denotation) E.g., there is a substantial difference in
size between 'a large planet' and 'a large stone' (i.e. 'large' is
highly context-dependent) whereas 'a red planet' can, but need not,
differ substantially in its redness from 'a red stone' (i.e. 'red' is
less context-dependent).

I would be really grateful for any ideas as how to objectively
operationalize these semantic factors. Any other comments on the
nature of these factors, their possible intercorrelations or adjective
order in general are equally welcome. I will post a summary of the
replies; thanks in advance.
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Message 2: Amerindian language typologies

Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 14:29:03 -0500 (EST)
From: ewb2 <>
Subject: Amerindian language typologies

The Russian scholar Yuri Tambovtsev (Novosibirsk University) writes
with a question: 
"could you tell me if the following Amerindian
languages:Cofan, Secoya (Ecuador), Guambian, Inga, Piratopu, Siriano
(Columbia), Mam (Guatemala), Kadiweu, Apinae (Brazil), Nahuatl, Sayula
popoluca, Totonac (Mexico) are incorporative, agglutinative or flective?
Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Sincerely yours,
Yuri Tambovtsev" 

Please reply directly to him at and at 
Thank you--Wayles Browne, Cornell University
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