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Adjective order: a rare incredibly beautiful artifact ... an incredibly beautiful rare artifact

Discussion in 'English Only' started by blomst, Sep 7, 2009.

  1. blomst

    blomst Senior Member

    Oslo
    Norway, Norwegian
    Good evening,

    I am uncertain about the answer to a test:
    The sentence is: The archeologist were astonished to find such .................. under the ancient bridge.

    Then one is to fill in with either: (1) a rare incredibly beautiful artifact
    or: (2) an incredibly beautiful rare artifact.

    I would use, in accordance with my grammar, number 2. (opinion before descrition), but the answer key says number 1.

    Can anyone explain why number one is right here?

    :confused:
     
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Without looking at the list, I would also pick (2).
    I think that's partly because of the adverb.
    If you cornered me and forced me to write (1), I would insist on a hyphen:
    ... a rare, incredibly-beautiful artefact.

    Rare and beautiful are both opinion, aren't they?
     
  3. blomst

    blomst Senior Member

    Oslo
    Norway, Norwegian
    Ok, rare and beautiful are perhaps both opinion, but then why is rare more objective as Swoka suggests?
     
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I agree with the orangutan on this one, I read the question and decided '2' was correct before reading that the answer key said that it was '1', but then I wasn't sure and now I am torn between the both of them.
     
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    It's pretty subtle: both are right, with slightly different meanings. Let me see if I can work out why. First, your basic rule gives the right result here: I'd say 'a beautiful rare bird', not 'a rare beautiful bird'. (I find birds easier to think about than artefacts for the moment.)

    But I wouldn't use a comma between them. So this means the structure is (3), not (4):

    (3) a beautiful [rare bird]
    (4) a [beautiful (and) rare] bird

    It's a rare bird that's beautiful. (The comma is only used where it means "and".) If I wanted to say it was rare and beautiful at the same level, therefore, I'd have to reverse the order and probably add 'and':

    (5) a [rare and beautiful] bird
    (6) a [rare, beautiful] bird

    Now I can't see why we understand 'a beautiful rare bird' as a kind of rare bird. What happens if I try to force it to mean the other thing, by just putting a comma in?

    (7) a [beautiful, rare] bird

    Well I could say that, I suppose, but it's awkward. I've got to slow down and add in extra tones to prevent it sounding like (3). Perhaps 'rare bird' is an established expression; and perhaps that's why I can't think clearly about 'rare artefact'.
     
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hmm, with the 'bird' thing, I guess for me it groups them into categories..

    A rare beautiful bird - a beautiful bird .... that is rare.
    A beautiful rare bird - a rare bird .... that is beautiful.

    But these things are not sounding natural, ah another puzzle of the mind and what on earth it's doing as we read, I really would like this to be solved.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2009
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    When you play around with possibilities, could you use "incredibly beautiful" as well as simply "beautiful"?
    It seems to me that the adverb makes a difference, but I'm not sure.
     
  8. blomst

    blomst Senior Member

    Oslo
    Norway, Norwegian
    I'm not sure if I get what you mean, Entangledbank, but is it that if you use rare incedibly beautiful, you would use a comma, a rare, incredibly beautiful artifact?
     
  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It seems so, that's exactly what this site says...

    Maybe the rule is that if the adjectives in the same class are there, then the one with an adverb [incredibly] takes precedence in the order, maybe?
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2009
  10. blomst

    blomst Senior Member

    Oslo
    Norway, Norwegian
    I think the answer key is wrong. In number 2 you do not need a comma and it seems to me that this sentence is perfectly correct? It's copied from a TOEFL test and I think they have copied the answers keys wrongly. I'll search the internet for the correct answer.
    Thanks to all of you! :)
     
  11. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    I agree there is probably a weight effect too: the adverb will be making some difference. But my first post was confusing enough as it is. We would need to make judgement calls on:

    an incredibly rare, beautiful bird
    a beautiful, incredibly rare bird
     
  12. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Eb, what do you mean by 'weight effect' sorry? Is it where the sentence seems odd because of a wrongly-placed adverb?
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2009
  13. blomst

    blomst Senior Member

    Oslo
    Norway, Norwegian
    I have found the TOEFL test and the correct answer there is number 2! My sources have provided me with an error. I'm so sorry to have been bothering you all, but I always think of you when I have a language problem; you are very helpful. Again, I'm sorry I didn't search the internet before asking you!
     
  14. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Woohoo!
    That was driving me insane!

    Do we all think because the adverb highlights a quality of the adjective in the same class (opinion) that we would normally (but maybe not always) put it first in the order of the adjectives (within that class of adjectives)

    ??
    I would like to plan a lesson to address this and I'd need to investigate it for a long time before I could be certain of my findings, so this was very interesting for me!
     
  15. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    A weight effect is where the weight (length or complexity) of an item affects the grammar: 'incredibly beautiful' is heavy, 'rare' is light, and that might affect the ranking. I'm not saying there is one here, just it's a possibility. The clearest example of weight effects is that you can't put an adverb between a verb and a light object:

    :cross: Mary speaks fluently French.
    :tick: Mary speaks fluently all the languages of the Balkans.
     
  16. blomst

    blomst Senior Member

    Oslo
    Norway, Norwegian
    Yes I think so, it seems to me that if you do not use a comma or and, the adverb must be put first. It is like that in Norwegian as well.
     
  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Very well explained! I love your posts :D
     

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