In French, most adjectives are positioned behind the noun e.g.

  • vache bleue
  • médecin étrange
  • orange énevrant

But sometimes you have an adjective following BAGS -- the adjective describes beauty, age, goodness, or size. In these cases, the adjective goes before the noun.

I was wondering why it is these adjectives specifically that are the outliers. This response to one of my previous questions(https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/44995/37549) talked about language models, which describe the probability of a sentence based on the (conditional) probabilities of the individual words. Okay, fine, but in order for the change to happen, there would need to be some kind of incentive for the BAGS adjectives to go before, right? So, is there any possible reasons for this?


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    Check your assumptions. I have heard some talks about that claiming that there is no defined NA/AN order in French at all, and it is statistically close to 50% for each order based on large corpora. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 14:58
  • If those talks are available online, could you please share the links? Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 15:03
  • I don't have a quick handle to the talks, therefore the vagueness, but I have quick access to some French corpora. Two registers, two very different signatures: In parliamentary debate, 13k AN vs 38k NA, in literary text (novels) 32k AN vs 38k NA Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 15:19
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    @jk-ReinstateMonica Are those just raw numbers of all NA and AN sequences? Because that doesn’t really say much. Several of the BAGS adjectives are highly frequent and would skew raw collocation numbers significantly. You’d have to look at the number of lexical adjectives in each group, not corpus samples. Using corpus samples, you could probably also argue that 50% of English verbs have separate 1sg and 2sg present forms, which would obviously be false (it’s only one verb). Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 22:59
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    Why, other than that is how the language evolved with that lexical syntax in French any more than the Royal Order of Adjectives in English, here are some related questions.
    – livresque
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 2:52


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