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Thematic roles and events

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Event Structure
EditorsRobert Truswell
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199685318
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2019


Thematic roles have been put to various uses, including the definition of events. But there is another way of understanding this relationship: it might be the events that define the thematic roles they are associated with. We argue in favour of this approach with the complication that Talmy’s force dynamic roles should be seen as prior to both events and traditional roles. Force dynamic roles differ from traditional roles in that their number is limited to two, they are not found only within word meanings, and they can link to participants outside the sentence. We examine evidence that they play a role in both causation and modality, and provide an argument that while ditransitives involve a result or purpose relation, they should not be analysed as prototypically causative, as they involve variable force-dynamic transfer. The conclusion is that not only do events cause events, but also participants act on participants.

    Research areas

  • thematic roles, events, frames, force dynamics, causation

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