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Re: Theta Role Question

From:David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 19, 2006, 19:37
Yahya wrote:
"Jimmy is a boy" - SVO, order unmarked
"Music is his passion" - OVS, order marked, O fronted for emphasis
< "His passion is music" - SVO, order unmarked

Yahya: I beg to differ.  ;-)

Here's a sentence with a fronted O:

"Now, HIM I don't like." (norm: "I don't like him.")

The only way we really have to tell if something is a syntactic
object in English is the case marking on the pronouns.

So, take our sentence "Music is his passion".  This is still a regular
SVO sentence where "his passion" is the syntactic object.  It's
difficult to tell with music, but if you'll accept "Boats are his
passion" as a reasonably similar sentence, we can ferret it out
with pronouns:

"They're his passion."  (they = boats)
*"Them are his passion."  (them = boats)

As for "his passion", that's a bit less clear, as it's hard to replace
with a pronoun...  If we imagine his passion as a woman, we
might be able to say...

"Boats are her."

Though that's odd because you wouldn't expect a plural entity
to be a singular entity.  However, I think it might be better than...

???"Boats are she."

Back to the original sentence...

Yahya continues:
To verify this, let's consider adding to our corpus the 2 sentences:
"Jimmy is a 10-year-old" and
"Hot cars is his other passion"

Neither of these logically conflicts with the earlier two sentences;
each adds attributes for the original subjects.

True enough.  But consider these two sentences:

"Ken is also a boy."
"Music is a means of escape for him."

The latter would probably be best with "music" replaced by "it".

I don't think it's the case marking that's at issue (which is why I
was puzzled by the initial post, since I thought it was asking how
English case marked these guys), though, so much as the roles
each fulfill, and how they can possibly be realized by case.  I think
it's fairly clear that "music" is the subject in "Music is his passion"
(just as "His passion" is the subject in "His passion is music").  I'm
still not sure what role it is.  Is it the same as "Johnny Depp is
Jack Sparrow", or "Clark Kent is Superman"?  Is that what you
were saying, Tim?

Pat wrote:
As for the question "should I mark these with 'A'-case or not?", it's
totally up to you.  Cases and roles don't need to match up perfectly,
so long as you're consistent.

This I'd like to echo.  But also, Carsten wrote...

Another such dilemma. I don't know for sure how to deal
with it. Jimmy doesn't *do* boying, he *is* a boy.

I have this funny example from English that just won't go away
related to this.

Imagine that John is a fireman.  He's fighting fires, but, say, is
responsible for some structural damage, or something, and
starts feeling bad about himself.  He goes to his dad, a retired
firefighter, and his dad gives him a pep talk.  He tells him that
he's been doing a good job, and he's never been more proud
of him.  John is enheartened (is that a word?), and so he gets
up and goes and _ the best firefighter he can be.

Fill in the blank with the appropriate conjugation of the verb
"to be".  You CANNOT use the word "become".

The "correct" answer would seem to be "is", but, if you're like
me, it sounds *awful*.  Why?  Because in certain sentences, "to
be" seems to want an agentive subject, and I think professions
are one of them.  In fact, if you're me, the word you really want
to stick in there is "bes" [biz].  This way it indicates that he's
*being* the firefighter--that is, actively playing the role of

So, if, instead, it was Jimmy's father saying, "So, come on, Jimmy!
Go out and be a boy!", maybe Jimmy would've gone out and
beed a boy, in which case he would have been doing a lot of
boying, one would assume.

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison