Children are more sensitive to the Recursive Set-Subset Ordering than to Adjective Ordering Restrictions

Adina Camelia Bleotu, Tom Roeper


The current paper investigates experimentally whether, in a context requiring identifying green leaves out of a set of long leaves, Romanian 4-year-olds and adults choose to place the Color adjective closer to the noun than the Size adjectives in accordance with a more rigid adjective ordering depending on the (type of) semantic property, or whether they choose to place the Set adjective closer to the noun than the Subset adjective, irrespective of the semantic property specified by the adjective (Size or Color). We find that both Romanian adults and children are more sensitive to the Set-Subset distinction, preferring to refer to the subset of green leaves out of a set of long leaves through frunzele lungi verzi ‘the green long leaves’. We argue that adjectives are primarily ordered by a Recursive Set-Subset Ordering Constraint (RSSO), while orderings of adjectives in terms of properties such as Size and Color are cognitive.


Romanian L1; adjectives; recursion; adjective ordering; sets; subsets

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Copyright (c) 2022 Adina Camelia Bleotu, Tom Roeper

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