Seminar paper from the year 2004 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics, grade: 1,7, Humboldt-University of Berlin, course: Ergativity: A Comparative Perspective, 16 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Thematic roles are a linguistic phenomenon describing the more specific relations between a predicate and its respective arguments. This is especially important in the field of language acquisition, or, more generally stated, for the process of understanding. A discussion of thematic roles is closely linked to one of the most complex questions ever: what is meaning? Thematic roles are a linguistic approach to this question which is characterized by its comparative simplicity. Still, it is a complex theory. It ist acknowledged that if you know the grammar of a language you really know this language. Since grammar takes a closer look at units of speech such as sentences, and smaller chunks of sentences, one has to come up with some strategies for interpreting these chunks and the sort of relation they have with each other in order to know grammar. Theta theory is one of these strategies, focusing on "who does what to whom in a clause". In short: a predicate is able to assign certain thematic roles to its respective arguments - we say that predicates have a thematic structure. The part of grammar whicht regulates the assignment of these roles is called theta theory. As an issue of linguistic interest, thematic roles have gained importance during the last two decades. Theta theory as part of the Government and Binding Theory will be discussed in the following chapters. First, the theory has to be localized in the field of grammar. Then, there follows a brief introduction to Noam Chomsky's current theory of principles and parameters. After these introductory sections the main issues will be addressed, for example the grammatical relevance of thematic roles, and also the question as to which extent theta marking is
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