LINGUIST List 5.1076

Sun 02 Oct 1994

Sum: John in "John weighs 200 pounds"

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  1. , john weighs 200 pounds

Message 1: john weighs 200 pounds

Date: Wed, 28 Sep 1994 09:27:32 john weighs 200 pounds
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Subject: john weighs 200 pounds

 What is John in John weighs 200 pounds?

Original Query

 "If John is an Agent in John opened the door,
 and John is an Experiencer in John saw the movie,
 what is John in John weighs 200 pounds."


1. "Wallace Chafe, in Meaning and the structure of language
(1970:157) cites the example "The book weighs a pound" with the
comment "It would seem that weigh must be accompanied by a
complement expressing a weight." In Chafe's system the subject of
the verb weigh is called Patient, similar to Fillmore's Object
case and Jackendoff's Theme case. "John weighs 200 pounds" has
the same case frame as "The box weighs 200
pounds". This example is cited in Cook, Case Grammar Theory
(1989) with the case frame Pat (Patient) + Comp (Complement), but
the lexicon (1989:215) suggests the case frame Os, Os with a
double expression of
Object (Theme). The assignment of Object/Patient/Theme for the
subject of weigh is not disputed. The object of weigh is

 Prof.Walter A.Cook, Georgetown University.

2. "According to Jackendoff (1972: 44), the theta-role of "John"
in the above sentence is theme. Jackendoff follows Gruber (1965,
1967a) in assuming the following definition for theme:Theme is
defined as either an NP which undergoes physical motion, or as
the NP whose location is being asserted (Jackendoff 1972: 29-30).
The use of "John" in the above sentence falls under the latter
definition. Jackendoff says that the above sentence corresponds
with the following sentence:"John weighs in at 200 pounds."
Hence, "John" is a theme by virtue of the fact that its location
is being asserted, the location being 200 pounds on the scale.
One final note is that elsewhere in the literature theme and
patient are often used interchangably. However, Jackendoff
(1987: 394-395) makes a distinction between these two
theta-roles. He defines patient as the "object affected", and he
reserves theme only to refer to NPs undergoing movement or whose
location is being asserted.Hope this helps out."

 Lizanne Kaiser

3. "I suggest that _John_ in your sentence _John weighs 200 lb._
is a patient, which these days is more usually called theme. The
_200 lb._ is an oblique of some sort (I hate to fudge on this
one, but for various technical reasons, it
is extremely difficult to distinguish the oblique roles -- I
assume at least five -- on the basis of their syntactic behavior,
and pure semantics can't cut it)."

 Leo Connolly

4. "Theme. 200 pounds is a locative."

 Gary B. Palmer

5. "My reasoning would make 'John' the theme. The reasoning is
based Ss like:(1) This book is heavy (2) This book weighs 200
Book is being described in (1); hence, it is a theme. The book is
also being described in (2); the only difference is the
measurement of weight which 'weigh' assigns but not heavy."

6. "I would say that the verb weigh as used in X weighs 200 lbs.
designates X's location on a scale of possible weights. Thus, X
is the entity whose location is at issue, i.e., what
is commonly known as 'theme'."

 P.M. Farrell, UC Davis

7. "I'd say Patient. There may be a 3-way ambiguity of _John hit
the wall_: (i) John, as conscious actor (Agent), purposely hit
the wall (e.g., with his fist) (ii) John, as psychological
experiencer (Experiencer), hit the wall (e.g.,
after being knocked against it)
(iii) John, as acted-upon entity but not psychological
experiencer (Patient), hit the wall (e.g., unconscious or dead,
John's body hit the wall).I'm not sure about the distinction
between readings (ii) and (iii) with the
verb _hit_, but the distinction between Experiencer and Patient
must be real for cases like your _weigh_ (and _cost_ and _be
tall_, etc.)."

 Jeff Kaplan, San Diego State University

8. "Give a look at Dowty's 1991 _Language_ paper. `Weighs' is
also discussed by Jackendoff 1972, I think."

 Massimo Poesio,University of Edinburgh

9. "If you make use of Michael Halliday's systemic function
grammar framework, you would say that `John opened the door'
involved the MATERIAL PROCESS, `John saw the movie' the
MENTAL PROCESS, and `John weighs 200 lbs' the RELATIONAL
In each of these processes, there are particular
participant roles.
 John | opened | the door
 John | saw | the movie
 John | weighs | 200 lbs
For more details, see M.A.K. Halliday, *An Introduction
to Functional Grammar* (London: Edward Arnole, 1985)."

 Peter Tan

10. "In John weighs two hundred pounds John bears no special
thematic role, John is merely the subject of a predicate. That
is, John bears the same role or nonrole that he bears
in John is male John is a mason John is good at cross-word
puzzles. Consider that: John weighs two hundred pounds
is rather close to the purely copular/predicative construction:
John is two hundred pounds in weight."

 Brian Ulicny, MIT

11. "An overeater?"

12. "Overweight"

13. "[It] is theme. The logic commonly leading to this classic answer is
that if it's not one of the other thematic roles, it must be theme.
There's a lot of disagreement about how to fully implement thematic
roles; there're also several proposed definitions for theme. But many
of them boil down to "theme is anything that's not one of the other roles".
Please don't attribute what I've said here -- it would annoy some of my
old syntax profs. :)"

 Prefers to Remain Anonymous

Many thanks to all.

Jorge Guitart

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