The early articles in this collection represent the emergence, out of the generative grammar tradition, of an approach to the description of language – Case Grammar so called – that refused to honor the official distinction between structures of sentence form and structures of sentence meaning. Certain aspects of the organization of a simple sentence in any language, it was claimed, could be formulated in terms of a constrained set of role names indicating the props and players in schemas of states, state changes, action, motion, and experience. Although it was intended as a contribution to the theory of deep structure and the layering of grammatical transformations, case grammar ended by forming an independent stream of intellectual activity, affecting linguistics, psychology, and artificial intelligence. Within linguistics it contained proposals for the connection between schemas of action and experience of the kind encoded especially in verbs, included proposals for displaying various kinds of language universals, characterizing typological differences between languages, and displaying “deep” relations between superficially different grammatical constructions; as such it and its numerous variations served as the framework for a large number of language descriptions. Within psychology it offered ways of formulating a new order of questions about language understanding and the evolution of linguistic competence in children. Within computer science it provided one of the ideas behind object-oriented programming; in artificial intelligence and natural language processing it formed part of the basis for various network representations of text meanings and it became a part of proposals for an interlingua representing the semantic commonalities behind translation equivalents in machine translation projects.
The later articles move beyond the semantic roles of sentence constituents toward other kinds of information needed in semantic description, including information about the organization of vocabulary, the relations between language use and the context of use, moving toward more flexible ways of describing the conceptual structures behind lexical and sentential meanings.
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