Theme (semantic role)

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Theme is the object that is located or relocated in space.


the glass is a theme both in (i)a (location) and (i)b (relocation).

(i)  a	The glass is on the table
     b	The glass fell from the table
(ii) a	The glass is mine
     b	John gave the glass away

The interpretation of thematic roles has been generalized in terms of 'abstract space'; then, a theme is what is in a state or in a change of state, and the notion applies to the glass in (ii)a (state) and (ii)b (change of state) as well.



  • Fillmore, C.J. 1968. The Case for Case, in: E. Bach & R.T. Harms (eds.) Universals In Linguistic Theory, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
  • Gruber, J. 1965. Studies in lexical relations, doctoral dissertation, MIT
  • Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures, Cambridge, MIT-Press.
  • Jackendoff, R. 1983. Semantics and cognition, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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