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  1. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #11

    Re: "relaxing, long bath" Adjective order

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    Does it have anything to do with why there's a fixed order of adjectives (quantity before quality)?
    Hello, Glizdka:

    It definitely has to do with there being a fixed order of adjectives. The recipe seems to be more complicated than "quantity before quality," though. Consider:

    (A) I watched a relaxing long movie.
    (B) ?I watched a long relaxing movie.

    Sentence (B), while perhaps not so bad as I want to take a relaxing long bath, wants a comma separating "long" and "relaxing":

    (B') I watched a long, relaxing movie.

    And of course we could also have a comma after "relaxing" in (A):

    (A') I watched a relaxing, long movie.

    Sentences (A') and (B') are equivalent in meaning. What, then, is the difference between (A) and (A')? It seems to be that "long" is naturally understood as specifying the nature of what is being described in a more central way than "relaxing," just as, in the case of Talab's bath, "relaxing" is naturally understood as specifying the nature of what is being described in a more central way than "long."

    Without the comma, the "zones of premodification" need to be respected. According to the book I alluded to earlier*, there is a Descriptor zone and an Epithet zone, where Epithets precede Descriptors. Individual lexical adjectives can belong to more than one zone. As we have seen, it clearly matters which noun is being modified. The movie case is much different from the bath case.

    Incidentally, another zone, closer than Descriptors to the noun being modified, is Classifiers, often realized by attributive nouns, like "bubble" in "bubble bath."

    I want to take a long relaxing bubble bath.
    I want to take a relaxing bubble long bath.
    I want to take a bubble long relaxing bath.
    I want to take a long bubble relaxing bath.

    *Premodifiers in English: Their Structure and Significance, by Jim Feist (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #12

    Re: "relaxing, long bath" Adjective order

    Here in the US, I've simply never heard anyone say "relaxing, long." I've always heard "long, relaxing."

    Both words are qualities. You can't quantify either one. Neither has a size. So I don't think there's a heirarchy issue. It's a matter of common usage.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  3. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #13

    Re: "relaxing, long bath" Adjective order

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Here in the US, I've simply never heard anyone say "relaxing, long." I've always heard "long, relaxing."

    Both words are qualities. You can't quantify either one. Neither has a size. So I don't think there's a heirarchy issue. It's a matter of common usage.
    How about this?

    He put on some relaxing long johns.

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    #14

    Re: "relaxing, long bath" Adjective order

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    How about this?

    He put on some relaxing long johns.
    Was that a satisfying long shot?

    (Learners, please note that "long johns" (long underwear worn in cold climates) and "long shot" (an effort with a slim chance of success) are both fixed phrases. This post and the previous one don't demonstrate adjective order in any general way.)
    I am not a teacher.

  5. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #15

    Re: "relaxing, long bath" Adjective order

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Here in the US, I've simply never heard anyone say "relaxing, long." I've always heard "long, relaxing."

    Both words are qualities. You can't quantify either one. Neither has a size. So I don't think there's a heirarchy issue. It's a matter of common usage.
    No, that's all mistaken, I'm afraid. It really doesn't matter what you've heard and what you haven't heard. The point that Phaedrus is making is that the different orders mean different things. It isn't about common usage but about underlying linguistic rules. What people say is a product of the rules of language.

    Secondly, long is not a quality. It signifies length, which is very much quantitative.

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