[Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

volker.gast at uni-jena.de volker.gast at uni-jena.de
Sat Jul 2 07:41:08 UTC 2022

Dear Christian,
I have long thought that we need modalized versions of semantic roles. A "Needer" is a modalized Possessor -- someone who in an ideal world would be a Possessor (of something). And obviously, predicates can encode more than one role. So in addition to being a modalized Possessor you can be an a (negatively affected) Experiencer. I agree that semantic roles are ill-defined, but I do not think that they are less clearly defined than any of the other terms we linguists use on a daily basis.

'Need' is sometimes encoded with the same verb as 'want'. 'Want' also encodes modalized possession. I would say that a Needer is a deontic Possessor while a Wanter is a bouletic possessor.


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-----Original Message-----
From: Christian Lehmann <christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de>
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Sent: Fri, 01 Jul 2022 10:42
Subject: [Lingtyp] semantic role of participant that needs something

For a start, I am ready to agree that Fillmorean semantic roles are a 
bit outdated. Still, some of them, like recipient, experiencer or 
possessor, may be met in publications to this day. So this question is 
directed to those of you who think that under suitable conditions, it 
makes sense to speak of semantic roles (or whatever you prefer to name 

What is the role of the participant that needs something? On the one 
hand, Latin /carere/ and /egere/ mean 'to not have'. This would seem to 
involve a possessor. On the other hand, Cabecar /kiana̱/ means 'be 
wanted' and /shë́na̱/ means ‘be missed’. This would seen to involve an 
experiencer (a pretty ill-defined role, anyway).

Such evidence from descriptive linguistics may imply that the 
presupposition of my question, viz. that there is a language-independent 
notion of 'need', is not fulfilled. This would be a pity, as it would 
render a comparative investigation of the kind 'how is the notion of "X 
needs Y" coded cross-linguistically' (in the spirit, e.g., of the 
Leipzig valency database) more complicated or even - from a theoretical 
point of view - impossible.

Grateful for any helpful suggestions,

Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt

Tel.: 	+49/361/2113417
E-Post: 	christianw_lehmann at arcor.de
Web: 	https://www.christianlehmann.eu
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