Nominal Thematic Proto-Roles

Let us suppose that thematic roles, or something very much like them, are needed to describe lexical and semantic patterns in the behavior of verbal predicates. But what about nouns? Is there evidence independent of verbal constructions motivating a system of nominal thematic relations? We suggest that the general problem of argument selection does in fact motivate a set of quintessentially nominal thematic proto-roles which we call Proto- Part and Proto-Whole. These nominal proto-roles are parallel to but distinct from the verbal proto-roles of Proto-Agent and Proto-Patient proposed by Dowty (1991) to account for argument selection in verbal predicates. The resulting theory of nominal argument selection is properly semantic, that is, it distinguishes between argument positions purely on the basis of the semantic entailments of the predicates involved. Furthermore, it is non-dynamic, that is, it describes static patterns of lexicalization without hypothesizing any productive grammatical process that maps semantic arguments to syntactic arguments during the derivation of a sentence.
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