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5.5.Co-occurring adjectives

We conclude this chapter on the attributive use of adjectives with a discussion of noun phrases containing more than one attributive adjective. We start by discussing the differences between coordination and stacking, after which the two cases are discussed more extensively in separate subsections.

[+]  I.  Coordination and stacking

This subsection considers noun phrases in which the head noun is modified by more than one attributive adjective. Two cases can be distinguished, which will be referred to as coordination (or symmetric co-occurrence) and stacking (or asymmetric co-occurrence) of adjectives, respectively. In the case of coordination, the adjectives are coordinated by means of the coordinator en'and' or maar'but', as in (154). In the case of stacking, the adjectives are immediately adjacent to each other, as in (155); no conjunctions are involved.

Example 154
Coordination (symmetrically co-occurring adjectives)
a. een goede en (bovendien) goedkope auto
  good  and   moreover  cheap  car
b. een grote maar lichte tent
  big  but  light  tent
c. een sterk maar lief paard
  strong  but  kind  horse
Example 155
Stacking (asymmetrically co-occurring adjectives)
a. een goede goedkope auto
  good  cheap  car
b. een grote lichte tent
  big  light  tent
c. een kleine Amerikaanse auto
  small  American  car

The presence of the coordinators en and maar clearly signals that the examples in (154) involve coordination of the adjectives; the structure of example (154b), for instance, will therefore be approximately as given in (156a). The examples in (155), on the other hand, do not involve coordination, and the adjectives seem to stand in a hierarchical relation to each other; in (155b), for example, the adjective licht modifies the noun tent, and the adjective groot modifies the complex nominal projection lichte tent. The structure of this example (155b) is therefore approximately as given in (156b).

Example 156
a. Coordination: [NP een [AP grote maar lichte] tent]
b. Stacking: [NP een [grote [lichte tent]]]

Semantically, the distinction between coordination and stacking is often not very clear. For instance, (154a) and (155a) seem to be more or less equivalent: both refer to a car that is both good and cheap. If we abstract away from the fact that the use of maar in (154b) suggests that being both big and light is unexpected for a tent, more or less the same seems to hold for (154b) and (155b): they both refer to a tent that is big and light.
      There are at least two arguments in favor of the proposed structural difference. The first argument involves the type of adjectives that can be combined. In (154), the coordinated adjectives all belong to the class of set-denoting adjectives. In (155c), on the other hand, the two adjectives belong to two different classes: the adjective klein'small' is a set-denoting adjective, whereas Amerikaans'American' is a relational adjective. If we coordinate these adjectives by means of the coordinator maar or en, as in (157), the result is unacceptable. Apparently, adjectives that belong to different classes cannot be coordinated, so (155c) must involve stacking.

Example 157
a. * een kleine maar/en Amerikaanse auto
  small  but/and  American  car
b. * een Nederlandse maar/en gulle jongen
  Dutch  but/and  generous  boy

Note, however, that some classes of relational adjectives have a tendency to shift their meaning in the direction of the set-denoting adjectives; cf. Section 1.3.3. It is therefore not really surprising that one occasionally encounters examples such as (158).

Example 158
a. een typisch Amerikaanse, en dus relatief grote auto
  typically  American  and  therefore  relatively  big  car
b. een typisch Nederlandse, maar toch gulle jongen
  typically  Dutch,  but  yet  generous  boy

      The second argument involves context sensitive N-ellipsis; cf. Section 5.4, sub I. In (159), the noun phrases in the second conjunct are syntactically but not semantically reduced. Example (159a), for instance, expresses that Peter has bought a very bad cheap car, which indicates that [ e] corresponds to the complex phrase goedkope auto and (159b) expresses that Peter has a white American car, which indicates that [ e] corresponds to the complex phrase Amerikaanse auto'American car'.

Example 159
a. Jan heeft [NP een [zeer goede [goedkope auto]] gekocht, maar Peter [NP een zeer slechte [e] ].
  Jan has   very good   cheap car  bought but  Peter  very bad
  'Jan bought a very good cheap car, but Peter a very bad one.'
b. Jan heeft [NP een [gele [Amerikaanse auto]]] en Peter [NP een witte [e] ].
  Jan has   yellow American car  and  Peter white
  'Jan has a yellow American car, and Peter a white one.'

If the co-occurring adjectives in (159) were coordinated, these interpretations would be unexpected, as this would imply that N-ellipsis could affect subparts of a coordinated structure. And, indeed, this reduction is impossible if the coordinator en'and' is present: example (160) does not imply that Peter also has a cheap car, which shows that e corresponds to the nominal head auto only.

Example 160
Jan heeft [NP een [AP goede en bovendien goedkope] auto], maar Peter heeft [NP een slechte [e] ].
  Jan has  a good  and  moreover  cheap  car but  Peter has  a bad (one)
[+]  II.  Constraints on the coordination of adjectives

Cases that involve coordination of adjectives, such as (161a), should be distinguished from cases such as (161b) that involve coordination of noun phrases with backward conjunction reduction; cf. Section 5.4, sub I, example (129). Note that the examples in (161) are given as embedded clauses in order to avoid interference of clausal backward conjunction reduction, which would also delete the verb in clause-final position. The apparent similarity between the two constructions is due to the fact that in (161b) the head noun of the first conjunct is deleted under phonological identity with the noun of the second conjunct.

Example 161
a. dat Jan [NP een [AP goede en goedkope] auto] heeft.
  that  Jan  good  and  cheap  car  has
b. dat Jan [NP [NP een goede auto] en [NP een goedkope auto]] heeft.
  that  Jan  a good  and  a cheap car  has

Constructions with adjectival coordination differ syntactically from conjunction reduction constructions, however, in that in the former case there is only one determiner present, whereas in the latter case there are two determiners present. The corresponding semantic difference is that (161a) expresses that Jan has a single car, which is both good and cheap, whereas (161b) expresses that Jan has two cars, one of which is good and one of which is cheap. This semantic difference can be readily demonstrated by means of the examples in (162): (162a) is unacceptable since one car cannot be both completely black and completely white; (162b) is fully acceptably given that there are two cars involved.

Example 162
a. * dat Jan [NP een [AP geheel witte en geheel zwarte] auto] heeft.
  that Jan  completely white  and  completely black  car  has
b. dat Jan [NP [NP een geheel witte auto] en [NP een geheel zwarte auto]] heeft.
  that Jan  a completely white  and  a completely black car  has

That the two constructions differ can also be made clear by replacing the conjunction en'and' by the contrastive coordinator maar'but'. This is possible with the symmetrically coordinated adjectives in (163a), but not with the conjunction-reduction construction in (163b). The reason why maar leads to an unacceptable result in the latter case is that this conjunction can normally not be used for coordinating noun phrases: Ik wil het meisje en/of/*maar de jongen bezoeken'I want to visit the girl and/or/*but the boy'.

Example 163
a. dat Jan [NP een [AP goede maar goedkope] auto] heeft.
  that  Jan  good  but  cheap  car  has
b. * dat Jan [NP [NP een goede auto] maar [NP een goedkope auto]] heeft.
  that  Jan  a good  but a cheap car  has

The disjunctive coordinator of'or' can also be used to distinguish the two constructions. Example (164b) shows that this coordinator can be used in the conjunction-reduction construction, but not with coordinated adjectives. The reason why disjunction is not possible in (164a) is probably of a semantic or a pragmatic nature, as entities are generally not defined by means of a disjunction of properties.

Example 164
a. * dat Jan [NP de [AP goedkope of zuinige] wagen] koopt.
  that  Jan  the  cheap  or  economical  car  buys
b. dat Jan [NP [NP de goedkope wagen] of [NP de zuinige wagen]] koopt.
  that  Jan  the cheap or  the economical  car  buys

Note, however, that the coordinator of can be used with coordinated adjectives if the speaker intends to correct himself. This is illustrated in (165), which is only acceptable if the marker beter gezegd, which indicates that we are dealing with a correction, is overtly expressed.

Example 165
de verstrooide of *(beter gezegd) uiterst slordige student
  the absent.minded  or    better said  extremely  careless  student
'the absent-minded or rather extremely careless student'

      The only overt syntactic sign of the distinction between the (a)- and (b)-examples in (161) to (164) is the presence or absence of the second article. Since the article is phonetically empty, ambiguity arises in examples such as (166a), in which we are dealing with an indefinite plural noun phrase: the structure in (166b) expresses that we are dealing with cars that are both cheap and economical, whereas the structure in (166b') expresses that we are dealing with cars, some of which are cheap and some of which are economical.

Example 166
a. dat Jan goedkope en zuinige autoʼs verkoopt.
  that  Jan cheap  and  economical  cars  sells
  'that Jan sells cheap and economical cars.'
b. dat Jan [NP ∅ [AP goedkope en zuinige] autoʼs] verkoopt.
b'. dat Jan [NP [NP ∅ goedkope autoʼs] en [NP ∅ zuinige autoʼs]] verkoopt.

Example (157) in Section 5.5, sub I, has already shown that not all attributively used adjectives can be coordinated. The constraints on coordination seem to be semantic in nature and involve the distinction between the adjective types in (167); see Section 1.3 for a discussion of the semantic and syntactic motivation for making these distinctions.

Example 167
a. Set-denoting adjectives: brutaal'cheeky', aardig'nice', etc.
b. Relational adjectives: Amerikaans'American', wekelijks'weekly', etc.
c. Evaluative adjectives: drommels'damned'
d. Residual adjectives: vermeend'alleged/supposed'

      The examples above have already shown that set-denoting adjectives can be coordinated without any problem. It is not possible, however, to coordinate a set-denoting adjective and an adjective from one of the other adjective classes. This is illustrated in (168): (168a) involves coordination of a set-denoting and a relational (geographical) adjective, (168b) coordination of a set-denoting and an evaluative adjective, and (168c) coordination of a set-denoting and a modal adjective. The unacceptability of these examples suggests that coordinated adjectives must belong to the same class.

Example 168
a. * een brutale maar Amerikaanse jongen
  cheeky  but  American  boy
b. * een brutale en drommelse jongen
  cheeky  and  damned  boy
c. * een gevaarlijke en vermeende misdadiger
  dangerous  and  supposed  criminal

      It is not immediately clear whether it is possible to coordinate relational adjectives. An example such as (169a) seems acceptable but still seems somewhat marked compared to the backward conjunction-reduction construction in (169a'). Insofar as the examples are indeed both acceptable, they should still differ in the number of sets involved (one in (169a), but two in (169a')), but it is hard to test this prediction. The plural counterpart of these examples in (169b) is of course compatible with both analyses, and therefore does not shed new light on the issue.

Example 169
a. ? de Nederlandse en Belgische afgevaardigden
  the  Dutch  and  Belgian  representatives
a'. de Nederlandse en de Belgische afgevaardigden
  the  Dutch  and  the  Belgian  representatives
b. Nederlandse en Belgische afgevaardigden
  Dutch  and  Belgian  representatives

Given the difficulty in interpreting these examples it might be better to restrict ourselves to cases in which the noun is singular, as in (170a&b). Although examples such as (170a) can readily be found on the internet, we judge them at least marked compared to backward conjunction-reduction constructions such as (170b).

Example 170
a. ? de Nederlandse en Belgische afvaardiging
  the  Dutch  and  Belgian  delegation
b. de Nederlandse en de Belgische afvaardiging
  the  Dutch  and  the  Belgian  delegation

The contrast we feel in (170) may have a morphological basis and be due to the fact that the intended reading of (170a) can be more readily obtained by using the adjectival compound Nederlands-Belgisch: De Nederlands-Belgische afvaardiging. This is even clearer in examples such as (171): coordination, as in (171a), gives rise to a clearly degraded result and the only way to express the intended interpretation “a tour both in America and in Europe" is by using the compound Amerikaans-Europees in (171b). For completeness’ sake, note that the compound status is clear from the fact illustrated in (171b') that the attributive e ending cannot be assigned to the first member of the adjective pair.

Example 171
a. *? de Amerikaanse en Europese tournee
  the  American  and  European  tour
b. de Amerikaans-Europese tournee
b'. * de Amerikaanse-Europese tournee

In other cases the impossibility of having coordinated relational adjectives may have a semantic basis: the degraded status of the examples in (172) can probably be attributed to the fact that the coordinated adjectives are from different semantic subclasses: (172a) involves coordination of a time and a geographical adjective, (172b) coordination of a “movement/trend" and a geographical adjective, and (172c) coordination of a substance and a geographical adjective.

Example 172
a. * de wekelijkse en Amerikaanse krant
  the  weekly  and  American  paper
b. * de kapitalistische en Amerikaans economie
  the capitalist  and  American  economy
c. * een aardewerk en Marokkaanse schaal
  an  earthenware  and  Moroccan  dish

      The evaluative adjectives in (173a) and the modal adjectives in (173b) are also difficult to coordinate, which may be due to the small number of adjectives that belong to these classes. The unacceptability of (173c) can again be attributed to the fact that it involves coordination of adjectives that belong to different semantic classes: vermeend is a modal and drommels is an evaluative adjective.

Example 173
a. *? de drommelse en verrekte jongen
  the  devilish  and  damned  boy
b. *? Jans eventuele en vermeende vertrek
  Janʼs  possible  and  alleged  departure
c. * de vermeende en drommelse misdadiger
  the  supposed  and  devilish  criminal
[+]  III.  The order of stacked adjectives

Whereas coordination requires that the adjectives belong to the same class, stacking of adjectives from the different semantic classes in (167) is possible. The following subsections discuss the possible combinations.

[+]  A.  Set-denoting and relational adjectives

If a set-denoting and a relational adjective co-occur, the latter is closer to the head noun than the former. This is illustrated in (174) for geographical, “Movement/trend", time, and substance adjectives.

Example 174
a. die leuke Amerikaanse jongen
  that  nice  American  boy
a'. * die Amerikaanse leuke jongen
b. die belangrijke Elizabethaanse toneelschrijver
  that  important  Elizabethan  playwright
b'. * die Elizabethaanse belangrijke toneelschrijver
c. die belangrijke jaarlijkse bijeenkomst
  that  important  annual  meeting
c'. * die jaarlijkse belangrijke bijeenkomst
d. die mooie houten doos
  that  beautiful  wooden  box
d'. * die houten mooie doos

When the examples in (174) are pronounced with a flat intonation pattern, the interpretation proceeds such that the relational adjective first selects a subset of the set denoted by the noun, and that, subsequently, the set-denoting adjective selects a subset of the set denoted by the combination of the relational adjective and the noun. Example (174a), for example, refers to an American boy that is nice, but not to a nice boy that is an American. When we want to express the latter meaning, an intonational contour with contrastive accent on the relational adjective is needed: die leuke Amerikàànse jongen. In this connection, it can be noted that the primed examples in (174) improve slightly if the relational adjective is assigned contrastive accent, e.g., ?? die Amerikàànse leuke jongen.

[+]  B.  Evaluative/modal and set-denoting adjectives

If an evaluative/modal and a set-denoting adjective co-occur, the former must precede the latter.

Example 175
a. die verrekte rode autoʼs
  those  damned  red  cars
c. die verdomde grote autoʼs
   those  damned  big  cars
a'. * die rode verrekte autoʼs
c'. * die grote verdomde autoʼs
b. die vervloekte vierkante doos
  that  damned  square  box
d. die verrekte moeilijke som
   that  damned  difficult  calculation
b'. * die vierkante vervloekte doos
d'. * die moeilijke verrekte som
[+]  C.  Evaluative/modal and relational adjectives

If an evaluative/modal and a relational adjective co-occur, the former must precede the latter. Of course, this does not come as a surprise given the orders established in Subsections A and B above.

Example 176
a. die verdomde Amerikaanse auto
  that  damned  American  car
c. dat vervloekte jaarlijkse bal
   that  damned  annual  ball
a'. * die Amerikaanse verdomde auto
c'. * dat jaarlijkse vervloekte bal
b. die verrekte freudiaanse opvatting
  that  damned  Freudian  belief
d. die verrekte metalen lamp
   that  damned  metal  lamp
b'. * de freudiaanse verrekte opvatting
d'. * die metalen verrekte lamp
[+]  D.  Co-occurrence of relational adjectives

Stacking of two or more types of relational adjectives is also possible. We will illustrate this on the basis of the four main subcategories distinguished in Section 1.3.3. In general, all combinations are possible in all orders. Here, we restrict ourselves to the stacking of two relational adjectives. Here, we restrict ourselves to the stacking of two relational adjectives. The expected orders are given in table (177), which must be read such that the adjective type given in the header of the row precedes the adjective type given in the header of the column. The numbers refer to the examples following the table.

Example 177
Stacking of adjectives
  geographical “movement/trend" time substance
geographical (178a) (178b) (178c)
“movement/trend" (178a') (178d) (178e)
time (178b') (178d') (178f)
substance (178c') (178e') (178f')

Example 178
a. dat Engelse impressionistische schilderij
  that  English  impressionist  painting
a'. dat impressionistische Engelse schilderij
b. die Engelse zestiende-eeuwse toneelschrijver
  that  English  sixteenth.century  playwright
b'. die zestiende-eeuwse Engelse toneelschrijver
c. dat Franse bronzen beeld
  that  French  bronze  statue
c'. dat bronzen Franse beeld
d. die impressionistische negentiende-eeuwse schilder
  that  impressionist  nineteenth.century  painter
d'. die negentiende-eeuwse impressionistische schilder
e. die expressionistische bronzen beelden
  those  expressionist  bronze  statues
e'. die bronzen expressionistische beelden
f. die vijftiende-eeuwse houten beelden
  those  fifteenth.century  wooden  statues
f'. die houten vijftiende-eeuwse beelden

If the examples in (178) are pronounced with a flat intonation pattern, the interpretation proceeds in a similar way as in the examples in (174), that is, the relational adjective that is adjacent to the noun first selects a subset of the set denoted by the noun, and the second relational adjective subsequently selects a subset of this subset. Example (178a), for instance, refers to an impressionist painting made by an English artist, whereas example (178a') refers to a painting made by an English artist that is made in the impressionist style. Consequently, the noun phrases are used in different contexts: at an exhibition that displays several impressionist paintings, we would use (178a) rather than (178a') in order to refer to a certain painting; at an exhibition that displays several paintings by English painters, on the other hand, (178a') would be the preferred way of referring to a certain painting.
      We observed in our discussion of the examples in (174) that contrastive accent can have a semantic effect similar to that of changing the word order in (178). This use of contrastive accent is also available in (178). Thus, if we stress the adjective impressionistische in (178a), the example receives a interpretation similar to that of (178a') pronounced with a flat intonation contour. Similarly, if we stress Engelse in (178a'), the example receives a interpretation similar to that of (178a) with a flat intonation contour. Occasionally, speakers claim that the primed examples are slightly degraded with contrastive accent on the adjective that is adjacent to the noun, but generally the effect seems rather weak.
      Finally, we want to note that for some (but certainly not all) speakers of Dutch, the orders in (178c',e'&f') are degraded; these speakers apparently require the substance adjective to be as close to the head noun as possible. In neutral contexts, this would certainly be preferred.

[+]  E.  Co-occurrence of set-denoting adjectives

Stacking of two or more set-denoting adjectives is also possible. Section has shown that several types of set-denoting adjectives can be distinguished on the basis of their semantic properties. Some of these properties are relevant for their linearization in attributive position. First, consider the examples in (179) and (180).

Example 179
a. dat mooie rode boek
  that  beautiful  red  book
b. dat mooie kleine boek
   that  beautiful  little  book
a'. ?? dat rode mooie boek
b'. ?? dat kleine mooie boek
Example 180
a. die vreemde ronde tafel
  that  strange  round  table
b. die vreemde lage tafel
   that  strange  low  table
a'. ?? die ronde vreemde tafel
b'. ?? die lage vreemde tafel

The relevant difference between the adjectives mooi'beautiful' and vreemd'strange' and the other adjectives is that the former denote properties that involve some subjective evaluation, whereas the latter denote properties that can be more or less objectively established (cf. Section, sub IC): calling something beautiful or weird depends completely on the subjective evaluation of the observer, whereas there will normally be some independent criterion available for establishing whether something is red, small, round or low. The examples in (179) and (180) show that the preferred order is apparently A[+subj]–A[-subj]–N.
      If the objective adjectives in (179) and (180) co-occur, it turns out that these adjectives also have a preferred order. This is illustrated in example (181).

Example 181
a. dat kleine rode boek
  that  little  red  book
b. die lage ronde tafel
   that  low  round  table
a'. ?? dat rode kleine boek
b'. ?? die ronde lage tafel

The relevant difference between these adjectives concerns whether the adjectives are context dependent or context independent; cf. Section, sub IB. Adjectives such as klein'little' and laag'low' denote a +cont.dep. property: if we say of an entity that it is a small book or a low table, we express that it is “small for a book" or “low for a table". Adjectives such as rood'red' and rond'round', on the other hand, denote a -cont.dep. property: if we say of an entity that it is a red book or a round table we do not express that it is “red for a book" or “round for a table"; it is just red or round. Apparently, the preferred order is A[+cont.dep.]–A[-cont.dep.]–N.
      The interpretation of the examples in (179) to (181) proceeds in a fashion similar to that of the examples discussed earlier. if these examples are pronounced with a flat intonation pattern, the adjective that is adjacent to the noun first selects a subset of the set denoted by the noun, and the second adjective subsequently selects a subset of this subset. For example, (179a) refers to a red book that is beautiful, but not to a beautiful book that is red. The latter interpretation can, however, be obtained by assigning contrastive accent to the adjective rood.
      For completeness’ sake, it should be noted that the primed examples in (179) to (181) with the order A[-cont.dep.]–A[+cont.dep.]–N become more or less acceptable if the -cont.dep. adjective is assigned contrastive accent; our judgments are given in (182).

Example 182
a. ? dat ròde mooie boek
d. ? die làge vreemde tafel
b. ? dat klèine mooie boek
e. ? dat ròde kleine boek
c. ? die rònde vreemde tafel
f. ? die rònde lage tafel
[+]  F.  Summary

Since examples with two or more evaluative/modal stacked adjectives sound rather forced and are not easily constructed, we conclude the discussion by schematizing our findings by means of Table 6. If a flat intonation pattern is used, the evaluative/modal adjectives precede all other adjectives, and the set-denoting adjectives precede the relational adjectives. Within the different types of set-denoting adjectives, the subjective adjectives precede the more objective ones. Of the objective adjectives, the context dependent adjectives precede the context independent ones. It seems that the different types of relational adjectives can be ordered freely, and that the choice between the available options depends entirely on the context.

Table 6: The order of adjectives in attributive position (under neutral intonation)
Set-denoting Relational
  +subjective -subjective  
    +cont.dep. -cont.dep.  

Observe, however, that if the -subjective+cont.dep. adjective appears in the comparative or the superlative form, it preferably precedes the +subjective adjective. This is demonstrated in (183b-c). As is shown in (183d), this effect seems to be absent in the case of modification.

Example 183
a. een mooie grote auto
  beautiful  big  car
a'. ?? een grote mooie auto
b. ?? een mooie grotere auto
  beautiful  bigger  car
b'. een grotere mooie auto
c. *? de mooie grootste auto
  the  beautiful  biggest  car
c'. de grootste mooie auto
d. een mooie vrij grote auto
  beautiful  rather big car
d'. ?? een vrij grote mooie auto