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The domain of semantic roles

The domain of semantic roles

28 The

28 The domain of semantic roles (53) iču-z ivu raqö’darčuz us-DAT you not-see (‘We don’t see you’) (Hjelmslev 1935: 154). There is also a case, without overt marker, which is associated with abs, whether or not the abs is simultaneously erg – the so-called “nominative” – and one, illustrated in (51), that typically marks a transitive Agentive. We have, as in Basque, an “ergative” morphological system. The latter is also an “instrumental” marker (Hjelmslev ibid.), a not uncommon situation, and not unsurprising, given the representations in (45.a). Again, none of this requires elaboration of the notion of semantic relation envisaged here. Laying aside the formation of the Tabassaranian “equative” (as derivational) and the marking of predicatability and attributiveness, we can say that an examination of this most extensive of case systems does not provide us with motivations for attributing to the functor category content additional to that allowed for by table 1. The complexity of the system involves combinations of the semantic relations and, particularly, incorporation of “relational” nominals. Since these {N}s complement the functors, and they may, in different systems, be given independent realisation (as in in front of or the Finnish of (49)) as well as morphological (as in Tabassaranian), it is unsurprising that the morphological presence of Hjelmslev’s other dimensions, interpreted here as involving such {N}s, presuppose that of the first, functoral one – Hjelmslev’s dimension of “direction”. It is the functoral distinctions – combinations of abs, erg, loc, abl – in terms of which predicators are subcategorised. Choice of the “relational” noun that complements a functor may selectionally “fine-tune” the subcategorisation: so, English enter, for example, requires a loc that is “interior”, as indicated in (54.a) (54) a. They entered into negotiations b. They entered the room though this is not overt when the loc is combined with abs, as in (b); but, basically, enter is, subcategorisationally, simply a directional verb. Trivially, “interior-asgoal” is a kind of goal. Once more, it is not possible to demonstrate that there are not phenomena in some language(s) which arguably involve case – or, more generally, functors – and which require elaboration of the theory given here. But I suggest that the proposed delimitation of the domain of semantic roles and the general applicability of the theory – together with the demonstration of particular applicability to potentially problematical systems such as that of Tabassaranian – both make that unlikely and determine what would count as counter-evidence. For an example of the latter: is there an “abstract” semantic (case) relation which is not reducible, on good grounds, to some combination of the elements allowed for in table 1? This is what Anderson (1977: ch.2; 1978; 1984b; 1987) tried to show was not true of the proposed

John Anderson 29 Experiencer/Dative relation. Again, a number of languages have had attributed to their case systems a partitive. Are such problematical for the localist theory advocated here? Concerning partitives we can immediately observe that typically they are diachronic specialisations of an ablative, and that, in so far as they realise a functor marking a participant in a predication, they signal not so much, as with other cases, the manner of participation of an argument as the degree. In Finnish, for instance, the partitive both retains “ablative” uses, as illustrated by (55.a): (55) a. Jussi tuli kotoa J. came home:PART (‘Jussi came from home’) b. Jussi sai rahaa J. got money:PART (‘Jussi got (some) money’) c. Luin kirjaa I:read book:PART (‘I was reading the/a book’) (Rigler 1992: section 4.1), and elsewhere signals “partial involvement”, as in (b) and (c), often translatable in “aspectual” terms, as in (c). Anderson (1997a: 297) suggests that these latter usages reflect, as elsewhere, as illustrated by (56), the role of the partitive in NP structure: (56) pullo viskiä bottle whisky:PART (‘bottle of whisky’) rather than signalling a clausal relation. And he points out that this is confirmed by the fact that even if the number of the initial noun in (57) were plural the verb would remain singular: (57) Leipää on pöydällä bread:PART is on:the table (‘There is some bread on the table’) The partitive signals NP-internal structure. The semantic role of that NP in the clause, and that of the postverbal NPs in the predications in (55.b) and (c) is that of abs. And the role of the partitive in NP structure is in turn characterisable in terms of SOURCE, as suggested by its association with ablatives: the partitive marks the label for the whole from which is extracted some subpart. Here and elsewhere the localist hypothesis involves an expectation that no semantic relations beyond those allowed for by combination of the features of table 1 – and thus no purely “abstract” relations – will be encountered. Note * I acknowledge with gratitude that the initial work for this paper was carried out while the author enjoyed a British Academy Readership (1991-3). It thus shared its gestation with the book that forms the major outcome of the Readership, Anderson

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