Predicting cross-linguistic adjective order with information gain

by   William Dyer, et al.

Languages vary in their placement of multiple adjectives before, after, or surrounding the noun, but they typically exhibit strong intra-language tendencies on the relative order of those adjectives (e.g., the preference for `big blue box' in English, `grande boîte bleue' in French, and `alsundūq al'azraq alkabīr' in Arabic). We advance a new quantitative account of adjective order across typologically-distinct languages based on maximizing information gain. Our model addresses the left-right asymmetry of French-type ANA sequences with the same approach as AAN and NAA orderings, without appeal to other mechanisms. We find that, across 32 languages, the preferred order of adjectives largely mirrors an efficient algorithm of maximizing information gain.


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