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Thematic role

Thematic role is the semantic relationship between the verb and the Noun Phrases of a sentence. Thematic roles include:
  • Agent: deliberately performs the action
eg. Bill ate his soup quietly.
  • Experiencer: receives sensory or emotional input
eg. The smell of lillies filled Jennifer's nostrils.
  • Theme/Patient: undergoes the action
eg. The falling rocks crushed the car.
  • Instrument: used to carry out the action
eg. Jamie cut the ribbon with a pair of scissors.
  • Cause: mindlessly performs the action
eg. An avalanche destroyed the ancient temple.
  • Location: where the action occurs
eg. Johnny and Linda played carelessly in the park.
  • Goal: what the action is directed towards
eg. The caravan continued on toward the distant oasis.
  • Source: where the action originated
eg. The rocket was launched from Central Command.

Thematic roles are the same in sentences that are paraphrases.
Thematic roles may remain the same in sentences that are not paraphrases.

Thematic roles is also known as Case theory, as in many languages thematic roles are reflected in the case which the noun assumes.

Theta-criterion: A particular thematic role may only occur once in a sentence. This is a proposed universal principle. (See also Universal Grammar.)

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