comma with adjective: light-grayish moderately-loamy forest soil

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sergtab, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. sergtab Senior Member

    Russian, Russia
    1. light-grayish moderately-loamy cultivated forest soil
    2. light-grayish, moderately-loamy, cultivated, forest soil

    Please tell me, which is correct? These all adjectives are for one type of soil.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 30, 2008
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is "normal" to separate modifiers with commas, but not to have a comma between the last modifier and the noun.
    So, based on this view of normality I would write:
    ... light-grayish, moderately-loamy, cultivated forest soil.
     
  3. Nathalie1963 Senior Member

    Paris
    French
    Actually both sentences are correct depending on the meaning you want to give them. You can say it with or without commas.
     
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't understand the difference in meaning.
    Can you explain?
    I would have thought it is just a matter of punctuation style.
     
  5. Nathalie1963 Senior Member

    Paris
    French
    You are right, this is a point in style and this is what I meant, sorry. ;) But they do mean the same. :)
     
  6. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Panj,

    I agree with the way you've written this. These are all coordinate adjectives that equally modify soil and thus need commas. I don't believe they're hierarchical adjectives.

    HERE

    AngelEyes
     
  7. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I have one objection to this: I would lose the hyphen between moderately and loamy. But I know that hyphens are more popular in British English than in American English. :)

    Some more comments:

    I think I would just say either light gray (in which case I'd also lose the hyphen) or grayish. Light-grayish strikes me as too much gray-modifying, but if you need that degree of precision then by all means go with it.

    This may have been obvious to you, Panj, but I'll explain it for the benefit of the greater WRF population. It is true that when we have a list of adjectives preceding a noun, we do not place a comma between the last adjective and the noun. But note that in this case there is no comma between cultivated and forest, either. That's because forest is so closely attached to soil that the two form a unit that could be treated as a single noun for punctuation purposes. We may as well spell it forest-soil or forestsoil.

    More examples:

    a beautiful, expansive, state-of-the-art auditorium

    but

    a stately, well-maintained grand piano (no comma between well-maintained and grand)
     
  8. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Elroy,

    Yes! Your point is valid. Actually, cultivated and forest are hierarchical adjectives, wouldn't you say? Cultivated modifies forest and they both modify soil.

    So we have a combination of coordinate and hierarchical adjectives.

    AngelEyes
     
  9. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    What are hierarchical adjectives?

    I would have thought that cultivated modified soil. Surely it's the soil that's cultivated and not the forest?
     
  10. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Elroy,

    My link above talks about hierarchical adjectives. I think in this example that cultivated is specifically highlighting that it's forest soil and not some other kind of cultivated soil.

    You wouldn't say "forest cultivated soil" here. That's how you know it has to be written in the order it is and doesn't take any commas.

    AngelEyes
     
  11. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Right - I get your point. But it's grammatically inaccurate to say that cultivated modifies forest. It modifies soil, or forest soil if you prefer.

    That's why I was confused. :) Thanks for explaining.
     
  12. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Okay...you expressed it much better than I did, elroy.

    I'm often confused.

    AngelEyes
     
  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The term hierarchical scared me a bit, but I see what they are getting at.

    We have soil that has the following attributes:
    - light-grayish
    - moderately-loamy
    - cultivated
    - forest

    Tell me about the soil?
    It is cultivated and light-grayish and moderately-loamy soil.
    It seems really bizarre to say that it is forest and cultivated and light-grayish and moderately-loamy soil.
    The attribute "forest" cannot be detached from the soil so it is, in the terms of the link AngelEyes gave, an hierarchical adjective. This is the same "feeling" that Elroy explained earlier when he said this stuff was "forestsoil" or at least "forest-soil".

    As a result, we have
    ... light-grayish, moderately-loamy, cultivated forest soil.
     

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