Today OSASCOMP made, if not the front page of the Guardian, at least Tim Dowling's Reference and languages Notebook under the heading Order force: the old grammar rule we all obey without realising followed by:
I had no idea there was a specific order for adjectives until I read a viral post.The viral post focussed on the following quote:
from a book called The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth.
ExtractsThe paragraph concerned the order of adjectives – if you’re using more than one adjective before a noun, they are subject to a certain hierarchy. You know it’s proper to say “silly old fool” and wrong to say “old silly fool”, but you might never have thought about why – or if you did you probably imagined it was just some time-honoured convention you picked up by rote. But it isn’t. There’s a rule.
Other examples of the rule in action include chit-chat, singsong, flipflop and hip-hop. When you shift vowel sounds for effect this way, the vowels always follow a specific order: I, then A, then O.
- The statement "If you’re a native speaker, the hierarchy is ingrained in you" sometimes fails when the OSASCOMP categories are difficult to assign or the subject matter is beyond the writer's comfort zone (as occurs often when good into-English translators tackle subjects they don't fully understand). On other occasions, OSASCOMP-attentive readers will observe that even good writers do occasionally slip up for whatever reason.
- For technical writers and translators, OSASCOMP is difficult to apply (a) because the categories are difficult or impossible to assign, or (b) because the challenge is to combine one or more adjectives with other types of qualifiers. This applies especially to noun qualifiers and things like prices or values combined with units of measurement as qualifiers.
4 April 2017Tweet:
Steven Pinker @sapinker Old language FAQ: Why Big black dog not Black big dog? New article, but answer goes back to 1950s "Vendler's Law."