LOJA - ECUADOR
A semantic role is the underlying relationship that
a participant has with the main verb in a clause.
Words are not just a “containers” of meanings. They fulfill
different “roles” within the situation described by a
For example: If the situation is a simple event such as
The boy kicked the ball
The verb „kicked‟ describes an action.
The noun phrases ‘The boy’ and ‘the ball’ describe the roles of
entities such as people and things involved in the action.
Patient or Theme
The entity that performs the action is technically
known as “agent”.
The boy kicked the ball.
o As in the sentence one role is taken by the boy and
the boy performs the action, so it is agent.
Although agents are typically human, they can also
be non-human forces, machines or creatures.
The wind blew the ball away.
The car ran over the ball.
The entity that is involved in or affected by the action is
technically known as “theme”.
The boy kicked the ball.
o In this sentence “ball” is the theme because it is affected by
the action performed by the ‘agent’.
The theme can also be an entity that is simply being
The ball was red.
The theme can also be human. Indeed the physical entity can
appear in two semantic roles.
For example: The boy kicked himself.
If an agent uses another entity in performing an
action, that other entity fills the role of instrument.
o She writes a letter.
o He have the lunch.
In “writing with a pen” or “eating with a spoon”
the phrases “a pen” and “a spoon” have the
semantic role of instrument.
When a noun phrase designates an entity as a person
who has a feeling, a perception or a state, it fills the
role of experiencer.
If we see, know or enjoy something, we do not perform
any action. In this way we are in the role of experiencer.
Did you hear that noise?
The experiencer is “you” and theme is “that noise”.
When an entity is in the description of the event
then it fills the role of Location. (on the table, in the
For example: Mary saw a mosquito on the wall.
In this sentence “on the wall” is location.
It is a notational method which can be used to
express the existence or non-existence of preestablished semantic properties by using plus and
[+HUMAN], [+MALE], [+ADULT]
Woman is [+HUMAN], [MALE], [+ADULT]
Boy is [+HUMAN], [+MALE], [ADULT]
Girl is [+HUMAN], [-MALE], [ADULT]
It can be used to describe differences between antonyms,
super-ordinates and their hyponyms, and near synonyms.
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