Whilst it's by no means a "fixed rule", it seems to me the normal sequence for multiple adjectives applied to a single noun/verb in English does indeed tend to correspond to the top answer given in the ELU question What is the rule for adjective order?

Comments in this question (subsequently closed as a duplicate of the above) seem to suggest no such principle applies to Dutch. I'm not sufficiently multilingual to have direct personal knowledge of the situation with any language apart from English, but intuitively it seems unlikely only English has this characteristic.

Quite possibly all languages have words roughly corresponding to adjective/adverb - but even if some don't, presumably many/most do. So my questions are

  • Do most languages tend to have a preferred adjective sequence?

  • If so, do any particular subsections of those sequences tend to occur in many different languages?

2 Answers 2


I'll quote from Kemmerer et al (2008) (the paper is downloadable so hopefully you should be able to follow up with the references cited therein).

What is the precise nature of the semantic constraints on adjective order? Linguists disagree about exactly how they should be characterized, but several intriguing proposals have been made (for a partial review, see Frawley, 1992, pp. 480--496). At the very outset, it is important to note that most of the ordering patterns found in English have also been observed in a variety of other languages that have prenominal adjective order---e.g., German, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, Amharic, Hindi, Telugu, Chinese, and Japanese---and the mirror images of these patterns appear in a variety of languages with postnominal adjective sequences---e.g., Chichewa, Basque, Persian, Indonesian, and Qiang (Dixon, 1982; Hetzron, 1978; LaPolla & Huang, 2004; Martin, 1969b). Because many of these languages are geographically, historically, and typologically quite distant from each other, no mutual influences need be suspected, thus raising the possibility that the most commonly attested ordering patterns, such as the ``value > size > color’’ hierarchy, reflect universal cognitive predispositions for mapping descriptive semantic properties onto linear syntactic positions.2

  • 1
    +1 for citing Frawley's account. I think his 1992 Linguistic Semantics is one of the best and most insightful books I've ever had the pleasure of using as a text. Although I wonder how fluid these "orders" really are in highly inflected languages; even in English they only work for single words -- clauses and phrases get rearranged in many other ways.
    – jlawler
    Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 17:32

This is adverbial or adpositional phrase order, and it is indeed a typological syntax feature, often correlated with other word order types. It describes an ordering choice of adjectives/adverbs/adpositional phrases categorized as referring to time (when, e.g. 'now'), place (where, e.g. 'here'), and manner (how, e.g. 'quickly'). Two predominant orderings are time-manner-place and place-manner-time. Other orderings are possible.

time–manner–place is often correlated with SOV (e.g. german, japanese)

Ich fahre (heute) (mit dem Auto) (nach München).

place–manner–time is often correlated with SVO (e.g. English, French)

I'm travelling (to Munich) (by car) (today).

Of course the above refer to the unmarked neutral order without any focusing, topicalization, or contrast. This typology does not seem to extend to other phrase types like purpose/reason. Unfortunately it does not seem to be cataloged in WALS but it is found in Unilang.

  • 1
    I would think "adverbial or adpositional phrase order" would only talk about verb adjuncts, as you do, but the question was at least also about noun adjuncts (particularly adjectives). I'm sure the features are related/correlated though.
    – Mr. Nichan
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 21:10

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