It's a dotted blue big star: on adjective ordering in a post-nominal language

Nitzan Trainin, Einat Shetreet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Referring to a specific object sometimes requires using multiple adjectives. The ordering of the adjectives is assumed to be constrained by universal hierarchies (grammatical or conceptual). It is therefore predicted that different languages will present similar ordering preferences. The ordering in languages where adjectives appear after the noun is further expected to mirror the ordering observed in languages where adjectives appear before the noun. We investigated these predictions in prenominal (English) and postnominal (Hebrew) languages, using three different tasks: production, naturalness rating, and forced-choice. English speakers showed a robust ordering preference. The preferences in Hebrew were significantly weaker. Moreover, for some of the adjective strings, the weakly preferred orders in Hebrew did not mirror the preferred order in English. We argue that constraints on adjective ordering must include additional factors beyond the suggested hierarchies, and discuss this implication in relation to differences between prenominal and postnominal languages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-341
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Cognitive constraints
  • reference resolution
  • subjectivity
  • word order

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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