Discrete dimension accessibility in multidimensional concepts: The noun-adjective distinction

Julie Fadlon, Galit W. Sassoon, Petra B. Schumacher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Previous studies have identified that conceptual categories corresponding to nouns exhibit semantic domain effects: (1) classification into biological ones reflects a non-additive consideration of their defining dimensions whereas classification into artefactual and, presumably, social nouns is based on an additive one (2) nominal biological concepts are less graded than artifacts. Nevertheless, much uncertainty exists about the structure of conceptual categories corresponding to multidimensional adjectives. We propose that the effects observed for concepts corresponding to nouns are connected to a property we term discrete dimension accessibility and ask how it is manifested in multidimensional concepts corresponding to adjectives. We then hypothesize that (a) ratings of dimension-counting structures can be used as a diagnostic for these properties (b) the dimensions of multidimensional concepts corresponding to adjectives are inherently discrete. We report an acceptability rating experiment involving 42 adult Hebrew speakers revealing that with nouns, dimension-counting constructions with artefactual and social predicates are rated higher than ones with biological predicates, hence confirming (a). With adjectives, ratings for dimension-counting constructions remained high across the domain manipulation, hence confirming (b). We argue that the interaction between discrete dimension accessibility and lexical category indicates that lexical distinctions interact with conceptual ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-142
Number of pages38
JournalMental Lexicon
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Benjamins Publishing Company.


  • Adjectives
  • Conceptual categories
  • Lexical category
  • Nouns


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