The farmers sowed seeds and hopes
Conceptual prominence plays an important role in determining word order in metaphorical sentences: conceptually prominent items tend to precede less prominent ones. In: ‘the farmers sowed <i>seeds and hopes</i>’ 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 ‘cognitive precedence’, namely, the fact that they are retrieved from memory before less prominent counterparts (Kelly et al. 1986, Osgood & Bock 1977). Three factors contributing to conceptual prominence affect word abstractness: ordering – concrete terms tend to precede more abstract ones; animacy – animate terms tend to precede non-animate ones; and salience – 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.