Verbs denote types of situations, and their subjects, objects, and other arguments denote various participants in those types of situations. This book addresses the linguistic principles that determine how the syntactic arguments of verbs and the participant roles in situations are related.
Many previous approaches to this problem have employed a set of thematic roles, such as agent and patient, to classify varieties of participants. The alternative presented here, within the framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, uses typed feature structures and a hierarchy of word classes to model certain basic features of verb meaning, from which an account of the mapping between participant roles and syntactic arguments is developed. Evidence from a broad range of verbal phenomena in various languages, including argument-structure alternations such as causativization and applicative formation, bolsters the model. Relying on no special mechanisms or components of grammar, this account is based on a simple yet widely applicable set of constraints, which permit the observed mappings and rule out impossible ones.
Please send questions, comments, and suggestions for this book to Anthony Davis.