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Core Cases (was Re: Ditransitivity (again!))

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Monday, February 2, 2004, 16:14
Andrew Patterson wrote:
(Philippe Caquant (I think) wrote:)
> "It is not a question of syntactic cases, but of semantic actants. Every > verb has its own scheme." > > I am not sure what you mean by a "semantic actant", I have made a brief > search of the internet, but cannot find anything where it talks about > only "four core arguments".
"Core cases" in some grammatical descriptions merely refers mainly to those nouns that form, say, Nom. Acc. Dat. (and maybe Gen.)-- the core cases-- from one stem, but form others-- instrumental, ablative, allative and many more, considered the oblique cases-- from another stem. Philippe I think was referring more to the roles (actants-- called cases in some analyses) of verbs that must be present for a sentence to be grammatical. Since some of the roles can be optional in context, it's a question, I think. of what constitutes a grammatical sentence _as first sentence in a discourse, without previous context_. I can open a conversation with: "John loves Mary". After that, I can refer to Mary as she/her, John as he/him. I could not start off with "John loves her" or "He loves her"and definitely not with *"John/he loves" nor *"loves Mary/her". Therefore, the verb "love" requires two roles/actants/"cases", namely an actor/agent and a thing-acted-upon/patient/object. Fillmore, in particular, called these "cases, and schematized it as: LOVE [A, O]. (This use of "case" is not to be confused with grammatical cases like Nominative, Accusative etc. How A and O are marked in their surface realizations is up to each language.) "Give" requires at minimum 3 actants, A/giver, O/thing given, D(ative)/recipient. Only if the context is clear can O or D be omitted-- "I gave $5 to that beggar" is an appropriate opening sentence. Only later in the discourse can you get away with "I gave $5" or "I gave to the beggar" or simply "I gave" "Sell" seems to require only an A and an O, the D is optional and in some cases may be unknown. The price is helpful information but is optional, and while it is part of the meaning of "sell" it isn't crucial to the grammaticalness of a sentence (and may also be unknown). "Henry sold his car to John" is a valid opener; but so is "henry sold his car". So is "I used to sell books," where both the recipients and the prices are irrelevant. With proper context, the object can be omitted: "When the Dow hit 11,000, I sold" [everyone familiar with the stock market will understand I sold, presumably, all the stocks I owned, at whatever their price at that time, but one has no idea who buys the stocks one sells, though as our brokers tell us, for every seller there's a buyer :-) ]. It's in this sense, I think, that A O and D can be considered "core cases" in the semantic framework of verbs BTW, you included, as part of the definition of "sell"--
> 5. the buyer possesses sth which has a lower value (in terms of the same > abstract unit mentioned in 4.)than the thing that is for sale. > 6. A negociation is made between the buyer and seller to take the lower > valued item in partial payment.
I'd call that bargaining, or trading, not selling...........


H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>