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Re: Theta role?

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 14, 2004, 9:34
From:    Steven Williams <feurieaux@...>
> --- Carsten Becker <naranoieati@...> schrieb: > > Again reading some of the yet unread mails, I found > > the term "theta role" mentioned several times. What > > is 'theta role'? > > 'Theta role' defines the role a noun phrase plays in a > sentence, and there are four: the agent, experiencer, > patient and instrument.
Not at all: there's almost no agreement on how many theta roles exist, even among grammarians who practice within the same theoretical framework. The most common argument for a single number seems to be three (agent, theme, locus, or something along those lines), but an even greater number of people say either just two or somewhere between five and eight. IMO, three is the best bet, since to my knowledge there are no languages where an underived verb takes more than three arguments, though there are some languages where causatives create tritransitive verbs with four arguments (e.g. Georgian and Abkhaz both allow this, marginally). That fact suggests that there are no more than three roles which can be shown to behave differently in valence changing operations. If you're interested in the matter, Mark Baker has written a good paper "Thematic Roles and Syntactic Theory" in which he reviews the literature and suggests at least three are needed. ========================================================================= Thomas Wier "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally, Dept. of Linguistics because our secret police don't get it right University of Chicago half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 1010 E. 59th Street Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter. Chicago, IL 60637


And Rosta <a.rosta@...>