A thematic role or semantic role is a way in which an object can relate to an event.
Some examples of thematic roles are:
- “agent”: who is willfully causing this event?
- “benefactor”: who benefits from this event?
- “patient”: who or what is affected/changed by this event?
Syntactic and thematic roles
Thematic roles exist in contrast to syntactic roles, like “subject” or “direct object”: these describe a way in which something participates in a verb at the syntax level.
In Toaq, syntactic roles are the ones already represented by the “blanks” in verb definitions:
choıdea: ___ stabs ___.
Whereas thematic roles are represented using verbs that relate an event to an object, generally used as prepositions ():
nhuq: ___ happens for ___'s benefit.
In the two sentences below, the syntactic subject and object are exchanged, but the thematic roles stay the same: Brutus, the agent, is causing change, while Caesar, the patient, suffers this change.
|Sentence||Syntactic roles||Thematic roles|
|(1) Choıdea mí Butusu mí Kaısa da.
Brutus stabs Caesar.
|(2) Bọchoıdea mí Kaısa mí Butusu da.
Caesar is-stabbed-by Brutus.
Note that the assignment of Agent and Patient roles to Brutus and Caesar happens “automatically” according to the semantics of choıdea. To stab is for an agent to stab a patient.
We can further dress the event up with a “benefactor” using a preposition:
(3) Choıdea mí Butusu mí Kaısa nhûq mí Loqgınu da.
(4) Bọchoıdea mí Kaısa mí Butusu nhûq mí Loqgınu da.
We say that the stabbing-event, or the being-stabbed-event, “happens for” Longinus's sake.
Table of thematic role words
Each of these has a definition like: “___ is an event with ___ as its (Role).”
|bọtua||Actor||bộtua jí, “brought about by me”|
|bọtao||Intentional actor||bộtao jí, “done by me”|
|nhe||Extent||loq náo nhê néıheı keıcıu, “the water is 90°C hot”|
|zuo||Purpose||zûo ꝡä jaı súq, “so that you may be happy”|
|fana||End point, direction, goal||jara nháo fâna búe, “they run toward the house”|
|duo||Duration||jara nháo dûo sá hora, “they run for an hour”|
|kuı||Reason||soa jí súq kûı ꝡä paı súq jí, “I help you because you're my friend”|
|Words below this line are unofficial|
|sını||Starting point, source, origin||jara nháo sînı búe, “they run from the house”|
|gekyı||Stimulus||achu jí gêkyı hóegıo, “I sneeze from the sunlight”|
|tekyı||Patient||ruqshua têkyı jí, “it rains on (affecting, i.e. wetting) me”|
|taqkyı||Agent + patient (affecting self)|
“Agent” and “patient” roles are usually baked into a transitive verb, so translating toıkyı and tekyı can be a bit tricky or ambiguous.
- kyı is an invalid syllable, marking these words as somewhat more experimental than the others.