Verbal Valence: Subcategorization and Selectional Restriction

10.1   Transitive of Clauses
Clauses that do not contain any objects are called INTRANSITIVE.
o   The man went.
o   A woman arrived.
o   The big dog sat.
o   The one little cat arose.
Clauses which contain a direct object are called TRANSITIVE
o   The man ate the food
o   The man squared a long log.
o   A woman drew out water.
o   The dog drank water.
There is a special type of transitive clause which contains an INDIRECT OBJECT as well as a DIRECT OBJECT. These are generally called DISTRANSITIVE or BITRANSITIVE.
o   The man gave a small coin to a woman.
o   The man sent a message to a woman.
o   A child chatted with a woman.
Indirect objects typically represent such ideas as the RECIPIENT of something (with verbs like give and throw) or the ADDRESSEE (with verbs like mention, speak, and shout)
Indirect objects in English are also from PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES (PPs) consisting of the PREPOSITION to followed by NP.
o   He offered a mustache comb to his girlfriend.
o   She gave the ring back to her former boyfriend.
o   Lucy threw the ball to Charlie Brown.
o   Speak properly to your mother.
English shows the indirect object as prepositional phrase follow
ing the direct object.
S          à   NP[Su] VP
VP       à   V (NP[DO]) (PP[IO])
PP        à   P   NP
10.2   Verbal Valence
The following sentences generally  sound wrong to native speakers of English though they are grammatical.
o   *Mary rested the idea.
o   *The pilot put the airplane.
o   *Curious green ideas sleep furiously.
o   *The idea walked into the room.
What’s wrong with them? In general, the problem is that each verb requires certain phrases to be present or absent in its context. If the context is inappropriate for the verb, putting the verb in that context will sound wrong. This characteristic of verbs to be `choosy` about their context is called VALENCE.
We consider two sides of verbal valence here. One has to do with syntactic properties of verbs and can be called SUBCATEGORIZATION. The other concerns the semantic properties of verbs and is usually called SELECTIONAL RESTRICTIONS.
10.3   Syntactic valence: Subcategorization
Verbs that occur only in intransitive clauses are called INTRANSITIVE VERBS.
Verbs that occur only in transitive clauses are called TRANSITIVE VERBS.
Verbs that occur only in ditransitive clauses are called DITRANSITIVE VERBS.
Different verbs require different combinations of direct and indirect objects. The category of verbs is thus subdivided into several smaller subcategories: intransitive verbs, transitive verbs, etc.
10.4   Semantic valence: Selectional restrictions
Syntactic subcategorization is distinguished from another type of verbal valence which involves semantics. Consider the following sentences:
o   The lightning considered mopping in the floor.
o   The paramecium threaded its way through the maze.
o   The lamppost was lecturing temperance.
o   An idea flew into the room.
The problem with the sentences above is that they describe situations which do not occur in the ordinary world.

All of them have wrongness around them. Yet, this wrongness does not result from  syntactic subcategorization, since there are parallel sentences. With the same combinations of direct and indirect objects, that are perfectly acceptable.

o   The janitor considered mopping the floor.
o   The paramecium threaded its way through the maze.
o   The boss was lecturing Arthur.
o   An idea flew into my mind.
However, when we are doing syntactic analysis, we do sometimes need to keep track of the semantic structure of a verb in a rudimentary way. One common way to do this is through SEMANTIC ROLES, which are a kind of shorthand summary of common selectional restrictions. Here are some of the semantic roles that are usually found with subjects, direct objects, and indirect objects:
            AGENT                      a conscious, volitional causer of an event
            EXPERIENCER        a thinking being that experiences a mental event.
            PATIENT       an entity that undergoes a change of state in an event
            THEME                      an entity towards which an action is directed, without being a patient.
            RECIPIENT   a person who acquires control over a Theme as a result of an event.
            ADDRESSEE the target of some communication
Look at the semantic roles associated with the noun phrases in the following examples:
o   A child chatted with a woman       (chatted with: lit., ‘gave wordswith’)
Agent                  Addressee                                 (Theme)
o   The old hunterspotted a three-point buck.
Experiencer                   Theme
o   My parents give  too many presents   to our kids.
Agent            Theme               Recipient
10.5   Semantic roles and grammatical relations
We have assumed Agents and Experiencersto be subject, Patients and Themes to be direct objects, and Recipients and Addressees to be indirect objects. There are plenty of exceptions. For example, in receive, the subject could be considered a Recipientrather than an Agent. In break, there are two possible associations of semantic roles. Depending on its use as a transitive or intransitive verb. As a transitive verb (‘He broke’), the subject is a Patient and there is no Agent. So, cannot completely predict semantic roles on the basis of grammatical relations, or vice versa. We cannot write general rules of the form ‘all subjects are Agents’  or ‘all Patientsare direct objects’.


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