Chapter 8: Semantic Roles
Chapter 8 Semantic Roles Key terms • Actor • Affected participant (patient) • Affecting participant (stimulus) • Agent • Argument • Associate (predicate) • Benefactor (benefactive) • Causer • Experiencer • Goal • Instrument • Location • Positioner • Recipient • Resultant (effect) • Semantic case • Semantic role • Source • Theme • Theta role In semantics, instead of focusing on the meanings of the lexical items uti- lized by the language user (be it a speaker or writer) to describe a particular situation, special attention can be paid to their semantic roles in the situa- tion described. A semantic role (also known as a “theta role”, “semantic case”, or “thematic role”) is the underlying relationship that an entity (semantically 122 Chapter 8 called “argument”) such as a person or thing has with the main verb in a clause. This chapter gives full consideration to these underlying relation- ships that entities have in certain situations. 8.1 Semantic roles In a situation like The boy opened the door with the key, there is a verb describing an action (i.e., opening the door), and three noun phrases or arguments describing the roles that the entities (such as people, places, things, etc.) have with the main verb in the clause. Cast in more technical terms, in the above situation, the boy fills the role of agent (also known by some scholars as “actor”), the door fills the role of theme, and the key fills the role of instrument, as shown below: The boy opened the door with the key. agent = opener action theme = opened instrument As discussed above, some scholars use “agent...
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