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Customer Service. The kinds of participants that we label as agents tend to have three properties: usually, they are volitional , meaning they choose to participate in the event. Theme participants typically undergo events, that is, events happen to them.
Event Structures in Linguistic Form and Interpretation
Take a minute and try to think of some sentences that describe events that have agent and theme participants. But it can also be useful to have labels for some other kinds of participants, and the grammars of many languages encode other semantic properties besides those two.
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Some languages make a morphological distinction between an animate agent and an inanimate cause. In a sentence like, The hurricane destroyed the houses. In this sentence, The knife cut the bread, would you say that the knife is a cause participant? We could label the knife as an instrument. An instrument is the participant that an agent uses to make an event happen. Many languages have special morphology to indicate the location of an event, like in these sentences:. The Habs won the game at the Forum.
The kids ran through the sprinkler on the lawn.
Thematic roles: Core knowledge or linguistic construct?
The parade travelled around the neighbourhood. The noun phrases the forum , the lawn and the neighbourhood all have the thematic role of location.
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I want to return to animate participants to look at one more important role. Phoebe tripped on the curb.
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The Habs won the game at the Forum. The kids ran through the sprinkler on the lawn. The parade travelled around the neighbourhood.
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The noun phrases the forum , the lawn and the neighbourhood all have the thematic role of location. I want to return to animate participants to look at one more important role. Phoebe tripped on the curb. Sun-Jin won the lottery. The movie frightened Farah. Experiencers are like the middle ground between agents and themes. Because experiencers have this in-between status, they can show up either as subjects or as objects, like in these examples:.
The children were scared of the clowns. The clowns frightened the children. To sum up, thematic role labels capture the semantic properties of participants in events, independent of the syntactic position of the noun phrase.
Skip to content Increase Font Size. Unlike grammatical roles, which label the syntactic position of noun phrases in a sentence, thematic role labels capture semantic similarities across the participants in events.
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