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Visual determinants of preferred adjective order

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In referential communication, speakers refer to a target object among a set of context objects. The NPs they produce are characterized by a canonical order of prenominal adjectives: The dimensions that are easiest to detect (e.g., absolute dimensions) are commonly placed closer to the noun than other dimensions (e.g., relative dimensions). This stands in stark contrast to the assumption that language production is an incremental process. According to this incremental-procedural view, the dimensions that are easiest to detect should be named first. In the present paper, an alternative account of the canonical order effect is presented, suggesting that the prenominal adjective ordering rules are a result of the perceptual analysis processes underlying the evaluation of distinctive target features. Analyses of speakers' eye movements during referential communication (Experiment 1) and analyses of utterance formats produced under time pressure (Experiment 2) provide evidence for the suggested perceptual classification account.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: 2006-07-01

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