Size before shape, shape before color

The LCL features a guest speaker, Petra Mišmaš from the University of Nova Gorica, coming to present on adjective ordering at our next lab meeting on April 23rd at 10AM in APM4452.


The talk builds on an old observation that the order of attributive adjectives is universal (see for example Hetzron 1978, Sproat and Shih 1991, etc.). This also holds for adjectives for size, shape and color which seem to universally come in the order size > shape > color. One account of such adjective ordering restrictions was offered by the cartographic approach to syntax, see for example Cinque & Rizzi (2008) for an overview of the cartographic program. The core idea of this approach is that phrases consist from lexical heads which are dominated by hierarchies of functional projections. Crucially, the order of functional projections in the hierarchies is argued to be universal. This also holds for the noun phrase in which functional projections host, among other material, adjectives (Cinque 1994, Scott 2002). This means that the order of adjectives is universal because adjectives are hosted by functional projections which appear in a universal hierarchy. Based on this, the focus of the talk will be on the adjectives for size, shape and color as these adjectives will be used to investigate the possibility of a cognitive basis of the universal hierarchy of functional projections.

Following Cinque & Rizzi (2008) and Ramchand & Svenonius (2014), general cognition will be considered as a possible source of the universal hierarchy of functional projections. Specifically, I will report on a series of experiments which are a result of joint work with Rok Žaucer and Franc Lanko Marušič and are a part of an ongoing project Probing the cognitive basis of the cartographic hierarchy of functional projections in the noun phrase (J6-7282) financed by the Slovenian Research Agency and conducted at the University of Nova Gorica. These experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that if the universal hierarchy is dictated by general-cognition restrictions, then the order of projections hosting adjectives should be reflected in various non-linguistic cognitive processes. In the talk, I will report on the results of these experiments as well as ongoing research.