Subjectivity predicts adjective ordering preferences in Hebrew, but lexical factors matter too

Nitzan Trainin*, Einat Shetreet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adjective ordering preferences have been addressed by theoretical and empirical studies. Some accounts propose that the distance of an adjective from the head noun depends on its semantic/conceptual features such as subjectivity. Subjectivity has been observed to reliably predict adjective ordering cross-linguistically, albeit with variation in strength. We propose that cross-linguistic variation might stem from lexical factors, which might operate differently in pre- and post-nominal languages. Frequency, for example, may affect ordering linearly with frequent words appearing earlier in the string, rather than based on distance from the noun. Our study aimed at examining this hypothesis, using a binary forced-choice task contrasting two adjective orders in a post-nominal language (i.e. Hebrew). Our results suggest that subjectivity is indeed a strong predictor for ordering preferences, but its effect interacts with lexical factors. Our findings highlight the importance of studying a diversity of languages, where linguistic phenomena might manifest differently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1026
Number of pages7
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023


  • Subjectivity
  • adjective order
  • cross-linguistic variation
  • frequency
  • reference


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