Verbal argument structure: Events and participants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The generative enterprise in linguistics is roughly 50 years old, and it is reasonable to ask what progress the field has made in certain areas over the past five decades. This article will address the study of verbal argument structure. Research in generative linguistics without question has productively explored verbal argument structure within a general structuralist framework familiar from anthropology and the humanities, uncovering patterns and correlations across languages in the syntactic distribution and behavior of verbal arguments identified by their semantic roles, and providing structured explanations that capture these patterns in a compact and intuitively explanatory way. But this article will ask whether progress has been made in a different sense - toward a scientific understanding of language. In other words, has the generative enterprise made good on its promise to break from the structuralist anthropological tradition (Sapir, 1921; Bloomfield, 1933) and provide an account of argument structure within a general account of knowledge of language. If such progress has been made, we could argue that researchers in human psychology and neuroscience must take note of the latest theory of argument structure to inform their experiments, not just any account that traffics in thematic roles, word order, and case marking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-168
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Argument structure
  • Event structure
  • Theta roles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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