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Thematic role
SYNTAX: thematic roles are semantic roles in a sstem which takes location
an! mo"ement throu#h space as $some o%& the ke notion in the interpretation
o% natural lan#ua#e sentences. EXAMPLE: the sentence Don gives Ed a donut
is a'out a relocation or trans%er o% a !onut $the Theme& %rom (on $the Source&
to )! $the *oal&. +n sntactic theor thematic roles are usuall re%erre! to as
Theta-roles with not much concern %or their content. See Thematic theory.
LIT. Fillmore, C.J. (1968)
Gruber, J. (1965)
Jackendoff, R. (1990)
Thematic theor
GENERAL: Theor a'out the thematic interpretation o% natural lan#ua#e
sentences. ,ccor!in# to -acken!o. $/001&2 the thematic interpretation o% a
sentence is the association o% its sntactic structure with thematic
representations $its thematic structure2 also re%erre! to as its lexical
conceptual structure&. Thematic representations are taken to consist o%
!istinct le"els: thematic tiers an! aspectual $action& tiers. The thematic tiers
represent the structure o% the e"ent which the sentence is a'out2 in terms o%
pre!icates such as T3+4*2 )5)4T2 6,T32 *O2 7)2 8,US)2 TO2 ,T2 etc.
$constitutin# a localistic %ramework&2 whereas the aspectual tiers represent the
aspectual properties o% e"ents in terms o% pre!icates such as ,99)8T2 ,8TO:
an! 6,T+)4T. Linkin# rules !etermine what part o% thematic structure is
sntacticall rele"ant ' mappin# $part o% the& conceptual structure onto
sntactic structure. The usual assumption is that the arument structure o% a
pre!icate $"er'2 a!;ecti"e2 etc.& is the inter%ace 'etween thematic structure an!
sntactic structure2 such that some o% the ar#uments in thematic structure
correspon! to ar#uments in sntactic structure. Thematic interpretation is onl
part o% the semantic interpretation o% natural lan#ua#e sentences2 which also
encompasses <uanti=cational2 temporal an! mo!al aspects.
LIT. Fillmore, C.J. (1968)
Gruber, J. (1965)
Jackendoff, R. (1990)
Jackendoff, R. (1983)
Theme
SEMANT!"S: the o';ect that is locate! or relocate! in space. EXAMPLE: the
glass is a theme 'oth in $i&a $location& an! $i&' $relocation&.
$i& a The #lass is on the ta'le
' The #lass %ell %rom the ta'le
$ii& a The #lass is mine
' -ohn #a"e the #lass awa
!e in"er#re"a"ion of "!ema"ic role$ !a$ been %enerali&ed in "erm$ of 'ab$"rac" $#ace'( "!en, a "!eme
i$ )!a" i$ in a $"a"e or in a c!an%e of $"a"e, and "!e no"ion a##lie$ "o the glass in (ii)a ($"a"e) and (ii)b
(c!an%e of $"a"e) a$ )ell.
LIT. Fillmore, C.J. (1968)
Gruber, J. (1965)
Jackendoff, R. (1990)
Jackendoff, R. (1983)
Thematic Roles
This we' pa#e summarizes the thematic roles or case relations use! in the
'ook Knowledge Representation ' -ohn 9. Sowa. +n pre!icate calculus2 the
can 'e represente! ' !a!ic pre!icates. +n conceptual #raphs2 the are
represente! ' conceptual relations that link the concept o% a "er' to the
concepts o% the participants in the occurrent expresse! ' the "er'. +n %rame
sstems2 the are represente! ' slots in the %rame %or the correspon!in# "er'.
,ll those notations are e<ui"alent was o% representin# the links 'etween a
process an! its participants.
+n the >: ontolo#2 the thematic roles are classi=e! as su'tpes o% 6articipant2
which is %urther su'!i"i!e! ' two pairs o% !istinctions: determinant or
immanent an! source or product. That su'!i"ision #enerates the %our 'asic
tpes o% participants shown in the #raph o% 9i#ure /.
9i#ure /: *raph representation o% the su'tpes o% 6articipant.
+n 9i#ure /2 the tpe 6articipant is su'!i"i!e! ' two pairs o% !istinctions to
#enerate %our su'tpes at the 'ottom le"el o% the #raph. That same su'!i"ision
is represente! ' the matrix in 9i#ure 2.
Source Product
Determinant *ni"ia"or Goal
Immanent Re$ource +$$ence
9i#ure 2: ?atrix representation o% the su'tpes o% 6articipant
)"er participant is an entit that plas some role in a process. The %our-wa
su'!i"ision shown in 9i#ures / an! 2 !istin#uishes the participants accor!in# to
the kin! o% role the pla. +n natural lan#ua#es2 those !istinctions are
expresse! ' #rammatical markers such as prepositions an! case markers2
which link the "er's that express the processes to the nouns that express the
participants. +n lo#ic2 those !istinctions are expresse! ' relations or pre!icates
that link the sm'ols that i!enti% the processes to the sm'ols that i!enti%
the participants.
, determinant participant !etermines the !irection o% the process2 either
%rom the 'e#innin# as the initiator or %rom the en! as the #oal.
,n immanent #ar"ici#an" i$ #re$en" "!rou%!ou" "!e #roce$$, bu" doe$ no" ac"i-el. con"rol
)!a" !a##en$.
, source mu$" be #re$en" a" "!e be%innin% of "!e #roce$$, bu" need no" #ar"ici#a"e "!rou%!ou"
"!e #roce$$.
, product mu$" be #re$en" a" "!e end of "!e #roce$$ bu" need no" #ar"ici#a"e "!rou%!ou" "!e
#roce$$.
,$ an e/am#le, con$ider "!e $en"ence Sue sent the gift to Bob by Federal Express. !e %if" and
Federal +/#re$$ are immanen" #ar"ici#an"$, $ince "!e %if" (e$$ence) and Federal +/#re$$ (re$ource)
are #re$en" from be%innin% "o end. 0ue and 1ob, !o)e-er, are de"erminan" #ar"ici#an"$, $ince "!e.
de"ermine "!e cour$e of "!e #roce$$ from "!e ini"ia"or (0ue) "o "!e %oal (1ob). 2nlike "!e immanen"
#ar"ici#an"$, "!e de"erminan" #ar"ici#an"$ are in-ol-ed #rimaril. a" "!e end#oin"$. *f 0ue !a##ened "o
)ri"e "!e )ron% addre$$, "!e in"ended reci#ien", 1ob, mi%!" no" %e" in-ol-ed a" all.
,%ter analzin# an! summarizin# "arious sstems o% case relations or thematic
roles2 3arol! Somers $/0@A& or#anize! them in a matrix with %our tpes o%
participants at the top an! six cate#ories o% "er's alon# the si!e. +n the 2B
'oxes o% the matrix2 Somers ha! some 'oxes with !uplicate role names an!
some 'oxes with two roles that were !istin#uishe! ' other properties:
Canimate2 Cphsical2 C!namic2 or C"olitional. +n usin# SomersDs
classi=cation2 -u!ith (ick $/00/& applie! the roles to conceptual #raphs as a
knowle!#e representation %or le#al ar#uments.
Stimulate! ' the work o% -ulius ?ora"csik $/00/& an! -ames 6uste;o"sk
$/00E&2 Sowa $/00F& relate! the %our columns o% the Somers-(ick matrix to
,ristotleDs %our causes or aitia2 as !escri'e! in the Metaphysics:
Initiator correspon!s to ,ristotleDs eGcient cause2 Hwhere' a chan#e or
a state is initiate!H $/1/I'2I&.
Resource corre$#ond$ "o "!e ma"erial cau$e, )!ic! i$ 3"!e ma""er or "!e $ub$"ra"e
(hypokeimenon)3 (983a30).
Goal corre$#ond$ "o "!e final cau$e, )!ic! i$ 3"!e #ur#o$e or "!e benefi"( for "!i$ i$ "!e %oal
(telos) of an. %enera"ion or mo"ion3 (983a34).
Essence corre$#ond$ "o "!e formal cau$e, )!ic! i$ 3"!e e$$ence (ousia) or )!a" i" i$ (to ti n
einai)3 (983a45).
!e four "erm$ intiator, resource, goal, and essence be""er de$cribe "!e #ar"ici#an"$ of an ac"ion "!an
"!e "radi"ional "ran$la"ion$ for ,ri$"o"le'$ four cau$e$. Fi%ure 3 i$ a -er$ion of "!e 0omer$67ick
ma"ri/ of "!ema"ic role$ )i"! "!e "erminolo%. ada#"ed "o "!e on"olo%. #re$en"ed in "!e 8R book.
Initiator Resource Goal Essence
Action
,%en",
+ffec"or
*n$"rumen"
Re$ul",
Reci#ien"
9a"ien",
!eme
Process
,%en",
:ri%in
;a""er
Re$ul",
Reci#ien"
9a"ien",
!eme
Transfer
,%en",
:ri%in
*n$"rumen",
;edium
+/#eriencer,
Reci#ien"
!eme
Spatial :ri%in 9a"! 7e$"ina"ion <oca"ion
Temporal 0"ar" 7ura"ion Com#le"ion 9oin"*nime
Ambient :ri%in
*n$"rumen",
;a""er
Re$ul" !eme
9i#ure I: Thematic roles as su'tpes the %our tpes o% participants
The options an! !uplications in the 'oxes o% the ta'le in!icate that %urther
!istinctions can 'e ma!e. The option o% ,#ent or ).ector as the initiator o% an
action is !etermine! ' the !istinction o% a "oluntar intiator $,#ent& or
in"oluntar initiator $).ector&. The !uplication o% the ,#ent role %or actions2
processes2 an! trans%ers in!icates implicit interactions 'etween the tpes o%
"er's an! the tpes o% participants. 9i#ure I is an important start2 'ut it shoul!
'e exten!e! with %urther analsis alon# the lines o% 7eth Le"inDs classi=cation
o% "er's.
+n case o% am'i#uit2 the hierarch shown in 9i#ure / permits a more
specialize! tpe o% participant at the 'ottom to 'e #eneralize! to an
supertpe a'o"e it in the #raph. +n the sentence Tom baked the pie2 the pie
mi#ht 'e a result $!eterminant pro!uct& that is 'ein# create! or a patient
$immanent pro!uct& that is 'ein# warme!. Those two interpretations woul! 'e
expresse! ' two !i.erent conceptual #raphs:
J6erson: TomK$,#nt&J7akeK$:slt&J6ie: LK.
J6erson: TomK$,#nt&J7akeK$6tnt&J6ie: LK.
1u" accordin% "o "!e !ierarc!. of #ar"ici#an"$, Re$ul" = Goal = 9roduc", and 9a"ien" = +$$ence =
9roduc". 0ince 9roduc" i$ a common $u#er".#e, "!e ini"ial in"er#re"a"ion could !a-e "!e label 9rod.
!e re$ul"in% re#re$en"a"ion )ould be a $in%le conce#"ual %ra#! "!a" e/#re$$ed e/ac"l. "!e $ame
informa"ion a$ "!e ori%inal $en"ence )i"!ou" makin% an. a$$um#"ion$ abou" "!e immanen" or
de"erminan" $"a"u$ of "!e #ie>
J6erson: TomK$,#nt&J7akeK$6ro!&J6ie: LK.
*n "!e $en"ence The dog broke the indo, "!e do% could be an a%en" "!a" broke i" delibera"el., an
effec"or "!a" broke i" acciden"all., or an in$"rumen" "!a" )a$ #u$!ed "!rou%! "!e )indo) b. "!e
ac"ual a%en". +ac! in"er#re"a"ion )ould be e/#re$$ed b. a differen" conce#"ual %ra#!>
J(o#: LK$,#nt&J7reakK$6tnt&JMin!ow: LK.
J(o#: LK$)%ct&J7reakK$6tnt&JMin!ow: LK.
J(o#: LK$+nst&J7reakK$6tnt&JMin!ow: LK.
1u" ,%en" = *ni"ia"or = 0ource, +ffec"or = *ni"ia"or = 0ource, and *n$"rumen" = Re$ource = 0ource.
0ince all "!ree of "!e more $#eciali&ed ".#e$ of #ar"ici#an"$ are $ub".#e$ of 0ource, a $in%le CG
)i"! "!e 0rce rela"ion )ould e/#re$$ "!e e?ui-alen" informa"ion in "!e ori%inal $en"ence.
J(o#: LK$Srce&J7reakK$6tnt&JMin!ow: LK.
@!en fur"!er informa"ion abou" "!e do%'$ role become$ a-ailable, "!e rela"ion ".#e 0rce can be
$#eciali&ed "o one of "!e "!ree $ub".#e$ u$ed in "!e #recedin% %ra#!$.
The %ollowin# list #i"es a 'rie% !ecription an! an example %or each o% the
thematic roles that appear in 9i#ure I. The =rst term in each entr is the name
o% the role2 such as ,#ent. 9ollowin# the sm'ol N is the supertpe2 such as
+ntiator. Then comes an a''re"iation2 such as ,#nt2 %ollowe! ' cate#or
restrictions on the concept tpe o% the "er' $,ct& an! the concept tpe o% the
participant $,nimate&. ,s !iscusse! in the we' pa#e on roles an! relations2
each relation is !e=ne! in terms o% the correspon!in# role an! the primiti"e
!a!ic relation 3as. ,#nt2 %or example2 is !e=ne! as 3as,#nt2 7en% is
3as7ene=ciar2 an! 8mpl is 3as8ompletion.
,%en" = *ni"ia"or( ,%n"(,c",,nima"e).
,n ac"i-e anima"e en"i". "!a" -olun"aril. ini"ia"e$ an ac"ion.
)xample: Eve bit an apple.
J6erson: )"eK$,#nt&J7iteK$6tnt&J,ppleK.
1eneficiar. = Reci#ien"( 1enf(,c",,nima"e).
, reci#ien" "!a" deri-e$ a benefi" from "!e $ucce$$ful com#le"ion of "!e e-en".
)xample: Diamonds were given to Ruby.
J(iamon!: OPQK$Thme&J*i"eK$7en%&J6erson: :u'K.
Com#le"ion = Goal( Cm#l(em#oral9roce$$,9!.$ical).
, %oal of a "em#oral #roce$$.
)xample: Mary waited until noon.
J6erson: ?arK$Thme&JMaitK$8mpl&J4oonK.
7e$"ina"ion = Goal( 7e$"(0#a"ial9roce$$,9!.$ical).
, %oal of a $#a"ial #roce$$.
)xample: Bob went to Danbury.
J6erson: 7o'K$,#nt&J*oK$(est&J8it: (an'urK.
7ura"ion = Re$ource( 7ur(0"a"e,*n"er-al).
, re$ource of a "em#oral #roce$$.
)xample: The truck was serviced or ! hours.
JTruck: LK$Thme&JSer"iceK$(ur&J+nter"al: REhrsK.
+ffec"or = *ni"ia"or( +fc"(+n"i".,+n"i".).
,n ac"i-e de"erminan" $ource, ei"!er anima"e or inanima"e, "!a" ini"ia"e$ an ac"ion, bu"
)i"!ou" -olun"ar. in"en"ion.
)xample: The tree produced new leaves.
JTree: LK$)%ct&J6ro!uceK$:slt&JLea%: OPQK$,ttr&J4ewK.
+/#eriencer = Goal( +/#r(0"a"e,,nima"e).
,n ac"i-e anima"e %oal of an e/#erience.
)xample: "o#o sees the $sh.
J8at: So;oK$)xpr&JSeeK$Thme&J9ish: LK.
*n$"rumen" = Re$ource( *n$"(,c",+n"i".).
, re$ource "!a" i$ no" c!an%ed b. an e-en".
)xample: The key opened the door.
J>e: LK$+nst&JOpenK$Thme&J(oor: LK.
<oca"ion = +$$ence( <oc(9!.$ical,9!.$ical).
,n e$$en"ial #ar"ici#an" of a $#a"ial ne/u$.
)xample: %ehicles arrive at a station.
J5ehicle: OPQK$Thme&J,rri"eK$Loc&JStationK.
;a""er = Re$ource( ;a"r(,c",0ub$"ance).
, re$ource "!a" i$ c!an%ed b. "!e e-en".
)xample: The gun was carved out o soap.
J*unK$:slt&J8ar"eK$?atr&JSoapK.
;edium = Re$ource( ;ed(ran$fer,9!.$ical).
, #!.$ical re$ource for "ran$mi""in% informa"ion, $uc! a$ "!e $ound of $#eec! or "!e
elec"roma%ne"ic $i%nal$ "!a" "ran$mi" da"a.
)xample: Bill told Boris by phone.
J6erson: 7illK$,#nt&JTellK-
$)xpr&J6erson: 7orisK
$?e!&J6honeK.
:ri%in = *ni"ia"or( :r%n(9roce$$,9!.$ical).
, #a$$i-e de"erminan" $ource of a $#a"ial or ambien" ne/u$.
)xample: The chapter begins on page &'.
J8hapter: LK$Thme&J7e#inK$Or#n&J6a#e: 21K.
9a"! = Re$ource( 9a"!(9roce$$,9lace).
, re$ource of a $#a"ial ne/u$.
)xample: The pi((a was shipped via )lbany and Bu*alo.
J6izza: LK$Thme&JShip,ctK$6ath&J8it: O,l'an2 7u.aloQK.
9a"ien" = +$$ence( 9"n"(9roce$$,9!.$ical).
,n e$$en"ial #ar"ici#an" "!a" under%oe$ $ome $"ruc"ural c!an%e a$ a re$ul" of "!e e-en".
)xample: The cat swallowed the canary.
J8at: LK$,#nt&JSwallowK$6tnt&J8anar: LK.
9oin"*nime = +$$ence( 9im(9!.$ical,ime).
,n e$$en"ial #ar"ici#an" of a "em#oral ne/u$.
)xample: )t !+&! ,M- Erin let.
JTime: E:2EpmK$6Tim&JSituation: J6erson: )rinK$,#nt&JLea"eKK.
Reci#ien" = Goal( Rc#"(,c",,nima"e).
,n anima"e %oal of an ac".
)xample: .ue sent the git to Bob.
J6erson: SueK$,#nt&JSen!K-
$Thme&J*i%t: LK
$:cpt&J6erson: 7o'K.
Re$ul" = Goal( R$l"(9roce$$,+n"i".).
,n inanima"e %oal of an ac".
)xample: Eric built a house.
J6erson: )ricK$,#nt&J7uil!K$:slt&J3ouseK.
0"ar" = *ni"ia"or( 0"r"(+n"i".,ime).
, de"erminan" $ource of a "em#oral ne/u$.
)xample: Bill waited rom noon to three.
J6erson: 7illK$Thme&JMaitK-
$Strt&J4oonK
$8mpl&JTime: IpmK.
!eme = +$$ence( !me(0i"ua"ion,+n"i".).
,n e$$en"ial #ar"ici#an" "!a" ma. be mo-ed, $aid, or e/#erienced, bu" i$ no" $"ruc"urall.
c!an%ed.
)xample: Billy likes the Beer.
J6erson: 7illK$)xpr&JLikeK$Thme&J7eer: LK.
,s su'tpes o% 6articipant2 the thematic roles occup an interme!iate le"el in
the ontolo#. 9i#ure B shows a path throu#h the hierarch %rom the top le"els o%
the ontolo# to the su'tpes o% 6articipant represente! in 9i#ure /. )ach o% the
thematic roles in 9i#ure I coul! then 'e arran#e! un!er the %our su'tpes o%
6articipant: +nitiator2 :esource2 *oal2 an! )ssence. The incomplete lines in
9i#ure B su##est other 'ranches o% the ontolo# that ha"e 'een omitte! in
or!er to keep the !ia#ram %rom 'ein# cluttere!.
9i#ure B: 6lacement o% the thematic roles in the ontolo#
,t the 'ottom o% 9i#ure B are sample 'ranches o% the ontolo# un!er ,#ent an!
Theme. (oer2 %or example2 has a su'tpe (ri"er2 which has more speci=c
su'tpes like 7us(ri"er2 Truck(ri"er2 an! Taxi(ri"er. +n principle2 an o% the
thematic roles coul! 'e su'!i"i!e! %urther to show !istinctions that mi#ht 'e
si#ni=cant in some culture or !omain o% interest. Other thematic roles liste! in
Section 7.B coul! also 'e su'!i"i!e! %urther to represent the participants o%
speci=c concept tpes: Saer N ,#entT Senser N ,#entT ,!!ressee N :ecipientT
)xperience! N ThemeT ?o"e! N ThemeT Sai! N Theme.
,lthou#h the thematic roles represent a lin#uisticall important class o%
ontolo#ical cate#ories2 their common supertpe 6articipant is se"eral le"els
'eneath the more #eneral cate#or :ole. There%ore2 :ole woul! inclu!e man
tpes that are not !irectl associate! with "er's. ,s an example2 the role (ri"er
in 9i#ure B represents onl a person who is acti"el !ri"in# a "ehicleT that role
woul! 'e incompati'le with the role 6e!estrian. The cate#or License!(ri"er2
howe"er2 inclu!es people who are le#all authorize! to !ri"e2 whether or not
the are2 at the moment2 !ri"in#. +n 4ew Sork 8it2 license! !ri"ers pro'a'l
spen! more time as pe!estrians than as actual !ri"ers. ,s another example2 a
person mi#ht ha"e a continuous perio! o% emploment as a chau.eur2 'ut
woul! not 'e an acti"e !ri"er continuousl. There%ore2 the tpe 8hau.eur woul!
'e a su'tpe o% )mploee an! License!(ri"er2 'ut not a su'tpe o% (ri"er.
Sen! comments to -ohn 9. Sowa.
Last ?o!i=e!: '/0'10&''2 2'+34+'&