ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000 The Localist Approach

Gruber, whose influential 1965 dissertation was the origin of all subsequent research on semantic roles, tried to provide a structured view of events to overcome the shortcomings of an unstructured list of semantic roles. He did so in terms of an explicit localist approach to the representation of events. Nevertheless, it was Jackendoff (1972, 1976, 1983, and 1990) who formalized and developed this approach. Other localist views of event structure are Anderson’s (1971) and Van Voorst (1993), with precursors in the work about the localist foundation of case by Hjelmslev (1935) and Jakobson (1936).

The basic tenet of the localist view is that motion and spatial events are central for the conceptualization and construal of all other events. Typically, two types of events are considered: motion and location events. Each has its own set of participants. In the case of location events they are the located entity and the location. In the case of motion events, the participants are the moving entity and the path it follows. The moving or located entity is referred to as the Theme. Jackendoff uses the predicates GO, BE and STAY as primitives.

Jackendoff’s (1983: 188) Thematic Relations Hypothesis (TRH) articulates the central idea behind the localist approach to event structure representation:

(5.26) Thematic Relations Hypothesis:
In any semantic field of events and states, the principal event, state, path and place functions are a subset of those used for the analysis of spatial motion and location.
Fields differ in only 3 possible ways:
-what sorts of entities may appear as theme.
-what sorts of entities may appear as reference objects (i.e.,locations).
-what kind of relation assumes the role played by location in the field of spatial expressions.
Nevertheless, the TRH was not meant to account for argument expression, but to provide a principled account of certain instances of verbal polysemy such as the following involving the verb keep:
(5.27)  a. John kept the car in the garage.
            b. John kept the book
            c. John kept Andy happy.
The different senses of keep are unified because they involve the combination of the primitive predicates CAUSE and STAY, with a semantic representation of the form:
(5.28) [CAUSE (x, (STAY y,z))]
They are kept apart because each involves a different semantic field: the positional field in (a), the possessional field in (b), and the identificational field in (c). The TRH holds real explanatory force, since such polysemy is a quite common phenomenon within and across languages.
Jackendoff (1990) presents a theory of argument realization. Jackendoff proposes lexical semantic representations with two tiers, a thematic tier encoding the localistic aspects of the event, and an action tier, which encodes the agent patient relations. It is this second tier that determines the selection of subject and object for most verbs. Thus, even in Jackendoff’s approach, the localist approach has a limited contribution to make in the realization of arguments.
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ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000