Sur l’ordre des adjectifs

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The present paper discusses the neutral order of attributive adjectives in French. It starts out with a semantic classification of adjectives, which is based on both syntactic and semantic criteria. The following main types of adjectives are distinguished: (i) absolute adjectives, (ii) relative adjectives, (iii) complex relative adjectives and (iv) irregular adjectives. Within (i) and (ii) further subtypes are discussed. It is claimed that irregular adjectives are semantically more complex than complex relative adjectives, the latter are more complex than relative adjectives, which, in turn, are more complex than absolute adjectives. It is also shown that among the relative adjectives measure adjectives are semantically less complex than evaluative adjectives. A similar complexity hierarchy can be established within the various subclasses of absolute adjectives. The main claim of the paper is that the neutral order of adjectives reflects the hierarchy of semantic complexity: the more complex the adjective is the more peripheral the position will be which it occupies in the sequence of attributive adjectives.


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