Say I have a phrase like these:

  • The seat of the great rock of the north. = The north('s) great rock's seat - 北方(的)巨石的基座/底盤.
  • The man of the forest of the east. = The east('s) forest's man - 東方(的)叢林的男人.
  • The super tall man of the great green forest of the far east. = The far east('s) great green forest's super tall man - 遠東(的)大叢綠林的超高男人.

These have several noun phrases separated by of, the last one being the best example where each chunk between of is several words. In English, you have "super tall man" and "great green forest", where the adjectives/modifiers precede the main/head noun. How does it work in languages with the adjectives trailing the "head"/main noun, like apparently in Vietnamese, or perhaps some conlangs?

It's hard for me to imagine stuff like this:

  • The man tall super of the forest green great of the east far.

But is that basically how they do it and understand it with ease? Or do they do something different here? Basically what is the spectrum and/or what is most common when it comes to adjectives/modifiers following the main noun/thing?

1 Answer 1


Yes, that's how it works. Some languages say "super tall man" (putting modifiers before the head) while others say "man tall super" (putting modifiers after the head).

English is inconsistent about this, and generally puts prepositional modifiers after a noun ("the book on the table") and all other modifiers before it ("Alice's expensive book"). This is also not uncommon. Languages may do some modifiers one way, and some modifiers another way.

  • Can you show an example how they would handle the complex "of" chains like the third example I included?
    – Lance
    Feb 15, 2023 at 0:54
  • 3
    @Lance, French. Using your example, "L'homme super grand de la grande forêt verte de l'Extrême-Orient" or "Man super tall of the great forest green of the Far East". Some adjectives do normally occur before the noun, so it's not a perfect example, but there you go. Italian and Spanish (other Romance languages) use the same word order as French. Feb 15, 2023 at 3:47

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