A multifactorial corpus analysis of adjective order in English
This paper is concerned with the question of which factors govern prenominal adjective order (AO) in English. In particular, the analysis aims to overcome shortfalls of previous analyses by, firstly, adopting a multifactorial approach integrating all variables postulated in the literature, thereby doing justice to the well-established fact that cognitive and psychological processes are multivariate and complex. Secondly, the phenomenon is investigated on the basis of a large corpus, rendering the results obtained more representative and valid of naturally occurring language than those of previous studies. To this end, corpus-linguistic operationalizations of phonological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic determinants of AO are devised and entered into a Linear Discriminant Analysis, which determines the relative influence of all variables (semantic variables being most important) and yields a classification accuracy of 78%. Moreover, by means of the operationalizations developed in this analysis, the ordering of yet unanalyzed adjective strings can be predicted with about equal accuracy (73.5%).
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