Restrictions on ordering of adjectives in Spanish


  • Ana Pérez-Leroux University of Toronto
  • Alexander Tough
  • Erin Pettibone University of Toronto
  • Crystal Chen



adjectives, adjectival order, lexical classes of adjectives, adjectival sequences, intersectivity


Abstract. Sequences of multiple modifying adjectives are subject to poorly understood lexical ordering restrictions. There are certain commonalities to these restrictions across languages, as well as  substantive language variation.  Ordering restrictions in Spanish are still under empirical debate, with some proposing strict ordering for direct modifier adjectives; others proposing broad ordering restrictions based on the contrast between intersective and non-intersective adjectives, and yet others raising the possibility that adjectival order is fully unrestricted.  The goal of the present study is to examine corpus evidence for adjectival sequences. We look at both sequences of two postnominal adjectives (Noun +Adjective + Adjective, NAA sequences) as well as sequences of one prenominal, and one postnominal adjective (Adjective + Noun +Adjective, ANA sequences). The results from the NAA datasets clearly categorically confirms that relational adjectives are structurally closer to the noun. There is some evidence for an ordering bias along the line of the intersectivity hypothesis, but little else in term of hard evidence for restrictions. Additional ordering constraints appear once we incorporate the ANA datasets into the empirical picture. One interpretation is that these restrictions can be subsumed under an approach where evaluative adjectives have to occupy the prenominal restriction.  In sum, the evidence is most compatible with the middle ground approach, but not with a fully articulated set of ordering restrictions.


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How to Cite

Pérez-Leroux, A., Tough, A., Pettibone, E. ., & Chen, C. (2020). Restrictions on ordering of adjectives in Spanish. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 9(1), 181–208.