Thematic relation

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The term thematic relation is used (especially in Ray Jackendoff’s work and work influenced by him) for semantic role.


Alongside thematic role, Θ-role, thematic relation is perhaps the most common term in current American linguistics (e.g. Wilkings (ed.) 1988).


The term thematic relation was introduced by Jackendoff (1972:29) (who attributed it to Richard Stanley), basing his theory on Gruber's (1965) work. According to Jackendoff, the centrality of the Theme in Gruber's analysis justifies this term.


  • Jackendoff, Ray S. 1972. Semantics and cognition. Cambridge/MA: MIT Press
  • Gruber, Jeffrey S. 1965. Studies in lexical relations. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT. (Revised version published in Gruber 1976)
  • Wilkins, Wendy (ed.) 1988. Thematic relations. (Syntax and Semantics, xx) New York: Academic Press.