Undergoer that is a semantically core participant in an event or state, and that does not meet the criteria for any other label.

Prototypical Themes undergo (nonagentive1) motion, are transferred, or undergo an internal change of state (sometimes called patients). Adpositional Themes are usually, but not always, construed as something else:

Theme ThemeGestalt
the approach of the waves 015 the waves' approach 016
the death/murder of a salesman 017 the salesman's death/murder 018

Transfer, goods, and services#

In a commercial scene, goods, services, and money are distinguished. Possession is used as the scene role for goods for sale. Possession also applies to a piece of property transferred between parties, lost, acquired, or carried, even if no money changes hands. Theme is the scene role for commercial services. Cost applies to the money asked, paid, or owed.

The construal ThemePurpose is used for services marked by to, for, or similar:

See Purpose for additional discussion. Contrast goods at Possession#009, Possession#010, Possession#011.

Between and among#

When two symmetric undergoers are collected in a single NP functioning as a set, it is marked as a Whole construal:

Secondary themes#

Often, multiple similarly situated entities meet the criteria for Theme, in which case both are labeled Theme for the scene role. For example, this can occur in concrete scenes of contact, separation, attachment, combination, and substitution of two similar entities.

More abstract examples where a secondary Theme PP cooccurs with a Theme direct object include #053, #024, and #025.

By contrast, for similar scenes where the oblique argument is a ground-like entity (larger, less dynamic, more locational, etc. than the Theme), that entity is typically a Locus, Source, or Goal:

For creation or transformation of a whole entity (or a group of entities, such as ingredients) into another entity, Source applies to the initial entity and Goal to the result.

Multiple Themes can also be licensed by 2-argument adjectives:

  • We are ready/eligible/responsible/due for an upgrade. (Theme) 054

See also: ComparisonRef, Agent, Beneficiary

  1. We distinguish agentivity at the token level, unlike VerbNet, where the subject of motion verbs like arrive is Theme because it need not be agentive. 

  2. As with Agent, the scene role does not distinguish syntactically more prominent vs. more oblique positions. 

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Supercategory: Participant