chapter  14
23 Pages

More on Combinatory Lexical Information: Thematic Structure in Parsing and Interpretation: Michael Tanenhaus, Julie Boland, Gail Mauner, and Greg Carlson

If immediately accessed and used by the processing system, verbargument structure is among the richest sources of information available to the system to guide syntactic processing. And, when coupled with some simple processing assumptions (see Carlson & Tanenhaus, 1988; Tanenhaus & Carlson, 1989), this information could also be used for making provisional semantic commitments and for coordinating semantic, syntactic, and discourse-based information. As an example, consider, the verb 'donate', focusing primarily on thematic structure and syntacticthematic mapping. Its sense or 'core meaning' is a certain type of event. Associated with the event are three entities, one participating as an agent, another as a theme, and another as a recipient. The verb requires a subject, as do all English verbs, and most typically takes an object NP and a dative PP afterwards (e.g. 'John donated fifty dollars to the charity'). In the case where the subject plays the role of agent, the object NP is the theme, and the PP is the recipient. These roles may be implicit even when they are not realised by a complement, as in the sentence 'John donated $50', where the money must have been donated to someone or something. Let's assume that the comprehension system accesses and uses all of this information whenever the verb 'donate' is encountered. Immediate access to the thematic structure of 'donate' would allow the reader or listener to assign a provisional interpretation to much of the sentence either by leaving the particular identities of the theme and recipient temporarily unspecified (John donated something to someone) or by inferring one or more of these roles from the context.