The adjective order rule and cognition - meta-grammar

I thought this might be interesting. It may provide insight into the structure of hierarchy used by the brain.

This grammatical rule is seemingly shared among all languages, with the relative order influenced by the SVO/VSO/OSV structure of the language impacting the relative expression of ideas.

Determiner, opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose, noun.

What this means is that our brains are wired to understand something like this:

The awesome small new rectangular white Apple glass communications device was introduced yesterday.

As opposed to this:

The Apple small communications rectangular awesome glass new white device was introduced yesterday.

The second is grammatically equivalent to the first, but sounds schizophrenic. Both are awkward and arbitrary, but the first is far more coherent sounding.

I was thinking that this meta-grammar could give insight into how knowledge is represented in the brain. Knowing that, or other meta-grammatical rules, could inspire an HTM based natural language system based on the hierarchy that the rules imply.

Does anyone know of other similar rules or phenomena in language?


This is very insightful. This would be a perfect way to introduce grid cells in natural language comprehension. Thanks for this link.

I remember vaguely from latin classes that the romans were allowed to put the verb wherever they wanted. But poets started a tradition of reciting verses with strict rythm. In latin it is called scandere. (Google translate doesn’t know it unfortunately).

If you look into the history of oral traditions and the evolution of writing, you’ll find all sorts of tantalizing hints that memory palace style mnemonics were used. I just recently read “The Memory Code” which goes down the rabbit hole of memory skills and knowledge transmission.

The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments

There was a discussion about the transformation of writing in scrolls, which was without index or numbered pages, requiring a comprehensive knowledge of the whole text in order to navigate, and how phonetic mnemonics were implicit to the writings. There’s something that hints at a similar meta-grammatical rule, or set of rules in those concepts. They’re phenomena only a degree or two of separation from grid cell phenomena.

There’s something about Zipf’s law, mnemonics, grid cells, and communication/language that seem to correlate. This adjective order phenomena is a piece of it, and I think there might be something valuable underlying it all.

It could be that those phenomena simply correlate because intelligence is required - they all imply a high level of Phi / integrated information. Or maybe there’s a way to parse out hierarchy or cognitive structure.


I’ve wondered about those same topics, except in relation to Gematria. Do Letters and Numbers have some kind of equivalency? Humans seem fascinated by the possibility.

We know both word and number can be encoded as SDRs. Maybe displacement cells could be related to addition and subtraction. Up and down the hierarchy like multiplication/division. I’m not sure how language fits onto that structure, though.

I also find Zipf’s Law screaming at me that there must be something valuable here. :slight_smile:

Here’s an awesome video on Zipf’s law, in case anyone wants to understand what we’re talking about.

There’s something about sparsity and Zipfyness I haven’t quite grokked yet, and it was this video that sent me down the rabbit hole.

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As for hex grids (if I understand correctly), the original function was locations-in-room, and later in evolution, points-on-object. It seems like further abstractions of letters-in-word and numbers-on-line would function similarly?

I’ve been thinking about Braille lately in regards to these subjects. Here we have points-on-object and letters-in-word as the exact same thing, like a bridge.

Separately, the “adjective order rule meta-grammar” has me thinking about the uni-directional flow of time for some reason.