Attributive adjectives are frequently subject to ordering constraints. This paper focuses on exceptions to this generalization and proposes that adjective ordering restrictions do not choose between structures that are truth-conditionally distinct. It is argued that the syntactic component imposes ordering restrictions only on semantically equivalent structures. It may be that not all such structures are subject to ordering constraints, but it is only these that can be. Crucial evidence for this proposal comes from the so-called non-definite superlative constructions. In the absence of an operator, adjectives like short and Italian are strictly ordered. However, when the -est morpheme is present, the same two adjectives are no longer subject to ordering restrictions. This suggests that the free word order effect is not due to the lexical properties of the adjectives involved but rather to the presence of the degree morphology.
Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Donald Baumer, David Montero, and Michael Scanlon
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