This article argues that adnominal modifiers in a layered model of the noun phrase can be divided into two major subcategories: descriptive modifiers and discourse-referential modifiers. Whereas descriptive modifiers can be subdivided into classifying, qualifying, quantifying and localizing modifiers (section 2), discourse-referential modifiers in the noun phrase are concerned with the status of entities as referents in the world of discourse (section 3). I will pay particular attention to three issues: (i) formal reflections of the layered, semantic structure of the noun phrase (section 4), (ii) the special relationship between localizing and discourse-referential modifiers (section 5), and (iii) semantic and morpho-syntactic parallels between modifier categories in the noun phrase and the clause (section 6). In addition this sample-based typological study shows (contra Hawkins’s Universal 20’) that there are languages with the adjective before and the demonstrative or numeral after the head noun. These word order patterns provide additional support for the layered model of the noun phrase defended here in that it can now be shown for the first time that all patterns that iconically reflect the layered structure of the simple noun phrase are actually attested in the languages of the world.