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Thematic roles and their role in semantic interpretation

The phenomenon of 'case relations' (Fillmore 1968), or 'thematic roles' (Jackendoff 1972) forms a persistent part of generative grammar and is a notion included in several contemporary syntactic theories. But from the standpoint of a system of semantic interpretation as exemplified by Montague (1974), thematic roles would appear to be entirely superfluous elements. In this paper I wish to sketch an alternative system of modeltheoretic semantic interpretation which requires precisely the type of information thematic roles provide. Such a system takes events and similar objects as basic rather than derived elements of the model. I conclude by considering the status of thematic roles, whether they should be regarded as syntactic or semantic in nature. It is argued that they have an 'intermediate status' instead, and the paper concludes with a speculative account of what this 'intermediate status' might be. 0. Introduction The notion that argument NPs in a sentence have semantic roles associated with them forms a persistent part of generative grammar. Perhaps the most widely known exposition of a syntactic theory based on this idea is to be found in Fillmore's 'Case for case' (Fillmore 1968). The basic hypotheses presented there (and elsewhere) have in the meantime http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Linguistics - An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences de Gruyter

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