Semantic Prominence and Argument Realization

Course 123
LSA Linguistic Institute
Summer 2005

General Information:

Course Description:

Studies of the semantic determinants of argument realization have focused on individual arguments of a verb, while interactions between coarguments have received less attention. Yet, these interactions cannot be ignored: in many instances, the syntactic expression of one argument may depend on the semantic roles of its coarguments. Such interactions suggest that there are precedence---or prominence---relations among arguments. This course will investigate these interdependencies, approaching them through a critical study of two theoretical constructs that have been introduced to capture these relations: thematic hierarchies and proto-roles. In so doing, this course will assess the relative contributions of event structure, causal order, and semantic properties of the NPs filling argument positions to argument realization. Case studies will include dative verbs, two-argument activity verbs (wipe, pound), and, time permitting, psych-verbs. This course assumes some familiarity with syntax and lexical semantics.

Course Requirements:

Completion of ONE problem chosen from the list of problems handed out in class (pdf).


Levin, B. and M. Rappaport Hovav (2005) Argument Realization, Cambridge University Press.

Course Reader:

Available at CopyTech (See syllabus for contents)


Handouts from Lectures

NOTE: The material in some of these lectures appears in an updated form in the lecture notes for my class Lexical Semantics and Argument Realization at the DGfS/GLOW 2006 Summer School.

Lecture 1:

Introduction: Mapping from Lexical Semantics to Syntax

Lecture 2:

The Thematic Hierarchy: A Window into Semantic Prominence

Lecture 3 (and 4):

Delineating Semantic Determinants of Argument Realization and the Interactions among Them

Lecture 4:

Is Aspect a Semantic Determinant of Argument Realization?

Lecture 5:

Structuring Event Structure

Lecture 6:

The Dative Alternation and the Ranking of Recipients, Goals, and Themes

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