Considering the main eight parts of speech, every two adjacent words in a sentence can be one of the possible 64 pairs. The probability of these pairs significantly varies, as some might even be impossible.

Is there a linguistic study on this matter?

For example, what are the probabilities of having these pairs in modern English:

  • noun-noun
  • noun-pronoun
  • noun-verb
  • noun-adverb
  • noun-adjective
  • noun-preposition
  • noun-conjunction
  • noun-interjection

One can run a statistical analysis by parsing an extensive collection of texts by available NLP toolkits, but I look for a profound linguistic discussion.

I appreciate any recommendation of a relevant article, book or hint.

  • Are you asking about text frequency, and what kind of texts? I don't see what kind of profound linguistic discussion would arise, although bear in min that SE is not a discussion site, it's an answer site.
    – user6726
    Nov 4, 2022 at 0:28
  • @user6726, no I am not interested in frequency. I look for the linguistic discussion on all possible cases. For example, it is very likely that a noun is followed by a verb, but less likely to be followed by an adjective while it is very likely that an adjective is followed by a noun. In other words, I am interested in common grammatical patterns in sentence structure.
    – Googlebot
    Nov 4, 2022 at 0:33
  • 1
    It's pretty widely accepted that syntax is recursive, i.e. the underlying structure is a branching tree rather than a linear list.
    – Draconis
    Nov 4, 2022 at 0:52
  • How is this not about frequency? N+V is frequent, N+Adj is infrequent, both are possible. We do deal with zero frequency i.e. grammatical rules, but there's nothing in terms of POS word pairs that has zero frequency.
    – user6726
    Nov 4, 2022 at 0:55
  • 2
    Unfortunately, we don't know that. Adjectives can be defined as things that modify nouns, and then you're correct. But if we don't recognize adjectives, as the Original Roman Eight didn't, then you're wrong. Parts of speech do not number eight (or if you want the Original Eight, forget about adjectives), and are not natural phenomena; they're creations of theories and tend to mean what their inventors wanted them to mean, not what somebody else said later.
    – jlawler
    Nov 4, 2022 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


Each of those ordered is allowed under the rules of English. Some examples:

noun-noun I gave the child money.

noun-pronoun I gave the child his money.

noun-verb The child gave me a goat

noun-adverb He gave me a goat quickly

noun-adjective I fed the goat green apples

noun-preposition I put the goat on the market

noun-conjunction You bought the goat and a chicken

noun-interjection Now you have the deal with the goat, yuck!

There are infinitely many more constructions that exemplify these word-permutations (there are infinitely many NPs which can be substituted for “I” in the first example. There are infinitely many sentences of English which attest the order noun-adjective, likewise all of the other N+X orders, so talk of the “probability” of such permutations in English is pointless.

The reason why these permutations are possible is that human language grammar is not based on probability tables of word pairs, it is based on rules of admissibility / inadmissibility which say that a particular pair of node is (not) allowed – and the nodes are not single words or part-of-speech tags, then are syntacticunits such as “Noun phrase”, “sentence”, “verb phrase”, each of which has its own rules for admissibility. The basic structural rules for a Noun phrase put adjectives before the noun that is the head of the phrase, so you might think you can’t get N-adj, but you can because VP allows …NP NP…, an NP can end with N, and can begin with Adj. We need not even consider stylistically motivated word orders like “I gave him an apple green and sweet”, but that is another way to get that permutation.

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