The farmers sowed seeds and hopes

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Conceptual prominence plays an important role in determining word order in metaphorical sentences: conceptually prominent items tend to precede less prominent ones. In: &#8216;the farmers sowed <i>seeds and hopes</i>&#8217; the order of the two noun in the conjunctive noun phrase (<i>seeds and hopes</i>) seems more natural than its inverse (<i>hopes and seeds</i>) since seeds (the more concrete noun) is conceptually more prominent than <i>hopes</i>. This linear precedence of prominent items iconically mirrors their &#8216;cognitive precedence&#8217;, namely, the fact that they are retrieved from memory before less prominent counterparts (Kelly et al. 1986, Osgood &#38; Bock 1977). Three factors contributing to conceptual prominence affect word abstractness: ordering &#8211; concrete terms tend to precede more abstract ones; animacy &#8211; animate terms tend to precede non-animate ones; and salience &#8211; salient terms tend to precede less salient ones. We discuss the findings of a series of psychological experiments and corpus studies that lend support to this argument.


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