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Language Theory: UTAH Bound!

In this blog I would like to take a closer look at one of the linguistic theories I began to explain in my most recent blogs, namely: the Uniformity Theta Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH).

Recall from my previous posts that certain words (we will call predicates) require additional material to complete their message. I used the examples of ate and the.  Ate requires at least two additional pieces of material to be complete. That is, someone ate something. And, the requires at least one additional piece of material, the what?

So, the argument behind this hypothesis is that all verbs have specific thematic, or semantic roles that must be assigned to their arguments in a sentence. Let’s look at a new example, the verb “drive.” Drive must have a subject to which it will assign the role of agent as in, “John drives.”  This agent role is an active one.  John is actively responsible for the driving of some vehicle. So drive needs at least one additional piece of material in order to convey a complete message. When a verb has only one “role” to assign we call these intransitive verbs.

When a verb can assign more than one role, as in, “John drives the car” we call these transitive verbs. In the second sentence we can see that drive assigns two thematic roles, one to the subject, “John,” and the other to the object, “the car.”  Since the subject here is playing an active role we already determined that “John” receives the role of agent.  However, “the car” (the object of the sentence) receives the thematic role of theme.   A theme is the element which undergoes physical movement because of the verb.  Therefore, with verbs such as “fell” or “disappeared,” which only require one thematic role to be assigned, this role would be a theme since  “to fall” or “to disappear” happens to someone and is not the result of the subject actively causing a change.

Other verbs can assign more than two thematic roles.  These verbs are referred to as ditransitives. Gave is an example of such a verb: “I gave the book to my son.”  In this sentence, “I” is the agent, “the book” is the theme, and “my son” is assigned the role of the goal.

Can you determine the thematic roles for this sentence:

When did she place the order of supplies for your department?

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  • View 3 Comments
    • Love your blog. It is informative and insightful. Who knew there was so much science and theory in communication. Keep on doing what you do. I’m very impressed and intrigued by it. Blessing to you.

    • There is more than science and theory in communication. Words transmit what we intent to do or what we want others to do. Long ago when animals were created, Adam was charged to give names to them, “…and Adam called out names to for all the beasts, for the birds of the sky and all the living things of the field…” – Genesis 2:20 Adam was the first zoologist. He spoke a language, in our study we call this language “Edenic” (pre-Hebrew). For instance take a look at the word RAVEN. First the Edenic “Ayin and the Gimel are gutturals that have the versatility of the shifts. The Ayin can harden to make the hard C of Latin corvus (raven), French corbeau (raven) and Spanish cuervo (crow). The ayin can also soften in the Anglo-Saxon hraefen (raven). Can these different RAVEN words in Indo-European be understood as birds of a feather, distant cousins separated since the birth at Babel but linked by a common Semitic ancestor? The Edenic raven is [O]ReV or GHoReV (Ayin-Resh-Bet) RAVEN” (The Origin of Speeches, Isaac Mozeson, 2005). So Adam in his language has given a name to this bird and the root, sound ans sense of this word has managed to be found in modern languages.

      Language is not the result of chaos and evolution. when we pronounce a letter or a simple word a whole mechanism in our body starts to move, allowing us communication. You are welcome to visit a new alternative about the Origin of Speeches at http://fernandoaedo.posterous.com It is time to make the world change the perception of language.

      Best regards.

      Fernando Aedo

      • Excellent comment! Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I just want to say that I am not in disagreement with your comment in any way. Neither do I think the UTAH is in conflict with your view of the Origin of Language. The UTAH does not tackle the origin of language. It is simply a hypothesis as to some of the grammatical aspects of it. That is, why some sentences are complete, or phrases consist of a complete thought, while others do not.
        I think your explanation of the origin of language is very interesting and valid. I will definitely check out the link to your site.
        Thanks for sharing!


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