theta role

eli7

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
I have some questions about theta roles. As all of these sentences are about one single topic, I didnt open separate threads.

1.What is the theta-role of "I" in this sentence, agent or benefactor?

"I received the book this morning".

2.What is the theta role of "literature" in this sentence:

"I prefer linguistics to literature."

3.What is the theta role of "Mary", patient or benefactor?

"Jack promised Mary the job".

4. What is the theta role of "this morning":

"I received the book this morning".

5. What are the theta roles of all the components of this sentence:

"For john to be lazy is very surprising"

6. What is the theta role of "that":

"It frightens me that Jack is so impatient"
 
  • LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    1. Benefactor
    2. Patient, I think.
    3. Benefactor.
    4. Location, it is really time though, I forgot how you call the role when it refers to time, it can be location in some sense too, but I am not sure.
    5. I am not sure about 5, I have to think about it.
    6. Theme maybe.
     

    eli7

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Also, I cannot make a difference between an experiencer and a theme. Also, among benefactor, recipient, and patient.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, he can be an experiencer. The line is very vague sometimes. The be lazy might be a theme then. I had transformational-generative grammar twenty years ago. I read things on that subject sometimes, but I am not really an expert on theta roles. I think the previous ones should be ok. I am just not sure how you describe time, or what role it has. Would it be locative? I do not think John can be a theme. John is brave. Brave would be a theme.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    There is a location role and a locative role. I thought one of them could include time somehow, as a point in time. I am not sure about the role of time. Some adverbs could have the role of path. There is an adjectival role of theme usually. I am just not sure about adverbs, except place.
     

    eli7

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Well, if someone can make my questions in post 1 clear, I think it would be easy to generalize the results.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I think the answers should be right except the adverb of time, which I ma not sure about. Of course it would be great to have somebody comment on all of that. I understand what your questions are, I just do not remember all the roles. John is running. John is the agent. John has pain. John is the experiencer.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Hi, Eli. Only arguments of the verb wear theta roles, other noun phrases do not. So time can either have a thematic relationship or have no theta role at all as an adjunct.
     

    eli7

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Hi, Eli. Only arguments of the verb wear theta roles, other noun phrases do not. So time can either have a thematic relationship or have no theta role at all as an adjunct.
    Well, but time is an adverb and adverb shows the manner of verb, so it can be of arguments of verb.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Only arguments of a verb take roles. By arguments absolutely necessary elements for a particular verb are meant or relationships that are necessary for that verb. To take, for example, has two arguments. Agent and patient. The roles may slightly vary but the number of arguments for a particular verb is constant. What I mean Eli is that for a verb to take to function it is necessary that there is an agent and a patient, somebody who does the taking and the object, the thing that is being taken. The rest is not necessary for the verb to function, this is why it has only two arguments and only two roles are assigned.

    This morning will have no role in my opinion. It is outside the theatre.

    Number 6 is thematic relationship. No.5 John is the experiencer, in my opinion and surprising will be the theme, they will have a thematic relationship.
     
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    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    You could read some of the Chomsky's articles themselves, but the whole theory is quite complex, some may even call it confusing, and there have been different approaches to it. Some seethe roles as purely syntactic relations, Chomsky being one of them, whereas others see them also as semantic roles. There has been some disagreement as to the roles among various linguists.
     

    eli7

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    What Liliana says is in line with the Wikipedia article on Thematic relations.
    I recommend reading the whole article on Wikipedia, it's quite useful.

    Thanks, but I have studied two books in this case. I'm familiar with the definitions. The problem is that I cannot recognize a semantic role of some constituents in a sentence and usually mix them up with other theta roles.
    For example,

    "Jack promised Mary the job".
    What is the theta role of "Mary"? benefactor/patient/ recipient?

    or
    "I received the book this morning".
    What is the theta role of "I"? agent/benefactor?
    (Can a subject has the role of benefactor, or it is object all the time?)

    or
    "I perefer linguistics to literature."
    What is the theta role of "I"? experiencer/agent?

    or
    "It frightens me that Jack is so impatient".
    What is the theta role of "It"?stimulus? or it doesn't have any theta role because it points to a general statement.

    I hope someone can give me accurate answers, because after reading two books and some articles I cannot recognize the theta roles yet. Usually I doubt between two of them.
    I DO understand thematic relations, but sometimes don't understand how words are being used in English (because English is not my native language.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Not only you, some linguists do not agree as to the roles of certain arguments. Do you want the roles from a syntactical point of view, the way Chomsky has treated them or according to some other theories, as semantic roles? What is the difference between benefactor and recipient according to the definitions you know? I would call her a benefactor, but I think benefactor and recipient might be the same roles just used by different people.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    It frightens me that Jack is so impatient. Me is the experiencer. It might be the agent. I received the book - I is the benefactor. I have a book - I is a possessor. I will give you a book - I is an agent.
     
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    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "It frightens me that Jack is so impatient".
    What is the theta role of "It"?stimulus? or it doesn't have any theta role because it points to a general statement.
    Pleaonastic subjects can't receive theta roles, so it doesn't have one.
    People do often talk about this like it is a set of rules set in stone. At best it can be considered a good guideline of semantic analysis of a verb's arguments. Many linguistics don't even make the distinction between patient and theme, while others do. There's a lot of space for manoeuvre and good logical argument here.

    or
    "I perefer linguistics to literature."
    What is the theta role of "I"? experiencer/agent?

    Agents are for actions, and 'prefer' is a stative verb (it describes a state) and these take experience roles for their subjects.
    You can't say "Look, he's just preferred it right now!" You use a descriptive ongoing present tense "He prefers it", so just like other verbs that take experiencer subjects (want; he wants it, crave; she craves it), if it's not an action you're probably not dealing with an agent. So the right answer here is experiencer.

    "I received the book this morning".
    What is the theta role of "I"? agent/benefactor?
    (Can a subject has the role of benefactor, or it is object all the time?)
    I = recipient
    The book = theme

    "Jack promised Mary the job".
    What is the theta role of "Mary"? benefactor/patient/ recipient?
    Jack = agent
    Mary = beneficiary
    The job = theme
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I think they call it benefactor, and benefactor is not a beneficiary but an equivalent of a recipient, somebody who receives something, favor, gets some kind of benefit, as far as theta roles go. I agree with Alexmrpy that theta roles are not strictly formulated as a theory and certain roles could have different names and different linguists treat them differently. Although one argument can have one theta role, there are cases where this seems controversial. Johns marries Mary, for example.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I think they call it benefactor, and benefactor is not a beneficiary but an equivalent of a recipient.
    Many many people do use beneficiary and it cannot be considered incorrect when looking at theta-roles, it's too common.
    It is the same as benefactor :)
    Although one argument can have one theta role, there are cases where this seems controversial. Johns marries Mary, for example.
    Definitely true ;)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I think they call it benefactor, and benefactor is not a beneficiary but an equivalent of a recipient...
    A beneficiary is a recipient (of a favour, privilege or right); a benefactor is not a recipient but an actor; -or appended to the participle stem is an active and not a passive suffix: benefacere (participle stem: benefact-) = to bestow a favour on somebody; benefactor = someone who bestows a favour on someone else.
    Hence, in Jack promised Mary the job, Jack is the benefactor and Mary the beneficiary.

    It is true that benefactor is used in the sense of recipient in this context. I have no idea why and it sounds very odd to me.
     
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    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    A beneficiary is a recipient (of a favour, privilege or right); a benefactor is not a recipient but an actor; -or appended to the participle stem is an active and not a passive suffix: benefacere (participle stem: benefact-) = to bestow a favour on somebody; benefactor = someone who bestows a favour on someone else.
    Hence, in Jack promised Mary the job, Jack is the benefactor and Mary the beneficiary.

    Hey berndf,

    Are you talking in the realm of theta-roles or in sort of literal language?
    In normal language, that's completely right and I would agree, but I've seen it used sometimes with theta-roles (perhaps mistakenly) to mean a beneficiary.
    Here
    is a usage of that (from the Simon Fraser University).

    It's also called the Benefactive in some books, but by far the most common is Beneficiary.
    (I've just checked 4 of my books on syntax and it appears benefactor doesn't exist in them, only the other previous two.)
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In normal language, that's completely right and I would agree, but I've seen it used sometimes with theta-roles (perhaps mistakenly) to mean a beneficiary.
    Yes, that is indeed so. Did whoever started using the term this way fail to pay attention in Latin class or is there a story behind this usage I do not know?
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, benefactor is used this way in relation to theta roles: I was surprised myself when I reread certain materials. Originally it would mean somebody who bestows favors. I do not know what the reason would be, maybe it was used wrongly by a non-native English speaking linguist and it has stayed this way.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    But I think "Jack" is the experiencer, because he doesn't do anything and just perceives or experiences something.
    I agreed already that the term benefactor is used differently in theta-role theory.

    But why should Jack be an experiencer? He makes a promise and that would make him an actor, wouldn't it?
     
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