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LINGUIST List 17.17

Tue Jan 10 2006

Qs: Thematic Roles Survey; Concrete Noun Hierarchy

Editor for this issue: Jessica Boynton <jessicalinguistlist.org>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate. In addition to posting a summary, we'd like to remind people that it is usually a good idea to personally thank those individuals who have taken the trouble to respond to the query. To post to LINGUIST, use our convenient web form at http://linguistlist.org/LL/posttolinguist.html.
        1.    Brian Murphy, Online Survey on Thematic Roles
        2.    chris daniel, Concrete Noun Hierarchy

Message 1: Online Survey on Thematic Roles
Date: 22-Dec-2005
From: Brian Murphy <Brian.Murphycs.tcd.ie>
Subject: Online Survey on Thematic Roles

Dear List, I'm looking for volunteers take part in a survey on the use of
thematic roles by linguists.


Thematic roles (or theta roles or semantic roles, or what you will) are
widely appealed to in linguistics. There remain many disagreements on the
details of what roles to include in an inventory, and exactly how to define
them. However, their frequent use as a descriptive device, for example when
discussing syntactic constructions like the passive or the dative forms,
suggests there may be broad agreement on their meaning.

We would like to test this. We have assembled an arbitrary set of sentences
for linguists to annotate with role labels. We do not give any description
or definition of labels, since people's existing understanding of them is
part of what we are investigating.

If you are willing to participate, please click on this link and follow the
instructions you will find there:


We realise the risks of doing what could be seen as psycholinguistic
research with linguists as informants. However, this exercise is primarily
intended to identify 'best practice' in linguistic description.

All submissions received before the 30th of January will be included in a
summary of results that we will post to the list.

Many Thanks and Regards,

Brian Murphy & Carl Vogel
Trinity College Dublin

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
Message 2: Concrete Noun Hierarchy
Date: 21-Dec-2005
From: chris daniel <danielchriscomcast.net>
Subject: Concrete Noun Hierarchy

I am an LA based investment fund manager who is financing a Natural
Language Learning, Understanding and Generation Software System in which
all words are related semantically by verb primitive (use). I am in search
of individuals interested in helping construct one piece of the puzzle; a
Concrete Noun Hierarchy defined by SENSE. We are also interested in
speaking with someone who can point us to a resource that may offers such

To date, we have:

-Built a complete verb hierarchy covering all of the verbs in English, each
of which is parented by simple-to- understand, frequently used verb
'primitives' (parent) such as push, pull, hold, have, put, take, feel,
believe, etc.

-Built adjective, abstract noun, adverb, preposition and other hierarchies;
each of which is parented by and related to one another uniformly using
these same primitives based on how we 'use' them or what action(s) they take.

-Begun to uniformly relate words semantically (by meaning as we 'use' them
in activities. For example: funerals (event) goes with mourner (role) and
casket (object) in cemetary (place)

The concrete noun hierarchy we have begun to construct is classified by
Type. Each type has been identified:

Examples from 'Vehicle' Typology, include:

-airplane: a vehicle that flies through the air, has wings, a tail and is
powered by an engine
-car: a vehicle that is driven on roads, has four wheels and is powered by
an engine
-boat: a vehicle that travels across water and is powered by an engine
-bicycle: a vehicle with two wheels that is ridden on roads and over ground
by pushing pedals

Anyone who is interested in collaborating on this project and/or who can
point us to a resource other than our present brute force, alphabetical
identification method of extracting words from dictionaries, is welcome to
email me.

At present, we work alphabetically through all nouns, extracting those that
are concrete, classifying each by SENSE, and redefining them using simple
to understand, frequently used words. This allows us to uniformly relate
all the words in Standard English.

Thank you.

Chris Daniel

Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

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