Semantic Role

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A Semantic Role is a Semantic Relationship Type of a verb semantic argument and predicate.



    • In a number of theories of linguistics, thematic relations is a term used to express the role that a noun phrase plays with respect to the action or state described by a sentence's verb. For example, in the sentence "Susan ate an apple", Susan is the doer of the eating, so she is an agent; the apple is the item that is eaten, so it is a patient. While most modern linguistic theories make reference to such relations in one form or another, the general term, as well as the terms for specific relations, varies; 'participant role', 'semantic role', and 'deep case' have been used analogously to 'thematic role'.

      Here is a list of the major thematic relations.

      • Agent: deliberately performs the action (e.g., Bill ate his soup quietly.).
      • Experiencer: the entity that receives sensory or emotional input (e.g. The smell of lilies filled Jennifer's nostrils. Susan heard the song. I ran.).
      • Theme: undergoes the action but does not change its state (e.g., We believe in many gods. I have two children. I put the book on the table. He gave the gun to the police officer.) (Sometimes used interchangeably with patient.)
      • Patient: undergoes the action and changes its state (e.g., The falling rocks crushed the car.). (Sometimes used interchangeably with theme.)
      • Instrument: used to carry out the action (e.g., Jamie cut the ribbon with a pair of scissors.).
      • Force or Natural Cause: mindlessly performs the action (e.g., An avalanche destroyed the ancient temple.).
      • Location: where the action occurs (e.g., Johnny and Linda played carelessly in the park.).
      • Direction or Goal: where the action is directed towards (e.g., The caravan continued on toward the distant oasis. He walked to school.).
      • Recipient: a special kind of goal associated with verbs expressing a change in ownership, possession. (E.g., I sent John the letter. He gave the book to her.)
      • Source or Origin: where the action originated (e.g., The rocket was launched from Central Command. She walked away from him.).
      • Time: the time at which the action occurs (e.g., The rocket was launched yesterday.).
      • Beneficiary: the entity for whose benefit the action occurs (e.g.. I baked Reggie a cake. He built a car for me. I fight for the king.).
      • Manner: the way in which an action is carried out (e.g., With great urgency, Tabatha phoned 911.).
      • Purpose: the reason for which an action is performed (e.g., Tabatha phoned 911 right away in order to get some help.).
      • Cause: what caused the action to occur in the first place; not for what, rather because of what (e.g., Since Clyde was hungry, he ate the cake.).
    • There are no clear boundaries between these relations. For example, in "the hammer broke the window", some linguists treat hammer as an agent, some others as instrument, while some others treat it as a special role different from these.


  • Misc.
    • A semantic role is the relationship between a syntactic constituent and a predicate. For instance, in the next sentence The executives gave the chefs a standing ovation The executives has the Agent role, the chefs the Recipient role and a standing ovation the Theme role.

    • semantic role also called deep case, semantic relation or thematic role. A semantic role is a description of the relationship that a constituent plays with respect to the verb in the sentence. The subject of an active sentence is often the agent or experiencer. Other roles include instrumental, benefactive, patient: Peter (experiencer) died. The cat (agent) chased the dog (patient).