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Ling 110 Section 2

1. Theta-roles: DPs are assigned a semantic role (thematic roles, theta role for short) in
sentences, which are a description of event or state. Here are a list of major theta roles:
Agent, Theme, Patient, Experiencer, Goal, and Possessor.

Q1: Examine each sentence below and then answer the following questions:

(a) What theta-role does each DP carry in each sentence?

(b) Is there any correlation between grammatical relations (subject, object) and theta
(c) Is it the case that all the DPs must carry a theta role?
(d) Is it the case that only DPs can carry a theta role?

(1) John hit Mary

(2) Bill's mother loves Susan.

(3) Bob pleased Mary.

(4) John sent the first book that Mary wrote to Bob.

(5) John laughed at Mary.

(6) The train arrived at the station.

(7) Mary was hit by John.

(8) It rained yesterday.

(9) There was no beer in the fridge.

(10) Bush believes that the earth is flat.

Q2: Which sentences induce a violation of the Theta-Criterion?

(1) *John killed.

(2) John was killed.

(3) *Rained.

(4) *Arrived a car.

(5) *Taro John loves Bill.

(6) *John gave the book Mary (meaning John gave Mary the book)

a. Each (obligatory) theta-role selected by a predicate must be assigned to a referential
b. Each referential expression must be assigned a theta-role.

Q3: Assuming that sentences in English are VP, formulae the rules that determines
which theta-role be assigned in which position in view of the examples above.
Discuss which example fits with the structure below and which doesn't.
Also discuss how an active sentence is related to its passive counterpart based on the
VP you draw.




Rules (formulate as follows. How many rules do we need?)

(i) If V has Agent and Patient theta-roles, Agent must be assigned to ______ and Patient
to ______