Skip to content
2005 LSA Institute Linguistic Society of America









LSA.229 | The Theta System

Tanya Reinhart
TR 1:00-2:40
location: 56-114
course web site:

The framework is the Theta System developed in Reinhart (2002) and Reinhart and Siloni (to appear). The Theta system (what has been labeled in Chomsky's Principles and Parameters framework 'Theta theory') is the system enabling the interface between the systems of concepts and the computational system -syntax (and, via the syntactic representations, with the semantic inference systems).

The Theta system consists of:

a. Lexical entries, which are coded concepts, with formal features defining the ?-relations of verb-entries.

b. A set of arity operations on lexical entries, which may generate new entries, or just new options of realization.

c. Mapping (linking) procedures, which 'prepare' a verb entry for syntactic derivations: assign an ACC(usative) feature to the verb in the relevant cases, and determine the merging position of arguments (technically obtained by indices).

After the introduction, the course will focus on problems in areas (b) and (c). The basic reading is the two papers mentioned above. Familiarity with other items in the reading list is recommended:

Belletti, A. & L. Rizzi (1988) "Psych Verbs and Theta Theory," in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6.3, 291-352.

Levin B. and M. Rappaport Hovav (1995) Unaccusativity, at the syntax-lexical semantics interface , MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Sections 3.2.1 (p. 90-98); 3.2.3 (p.102-106); 3.3.1-3.3.2 (p.119-126).

Marelj, Marijana (2002) “Rules that govern the coocurences of theta-clusters in the Theta System,” in Theoretical linguistics , 28.3, 357-374.

Pesetsky, D. (1995) Zero Syntax: Experiencers and Cascades , MIT Press, Cambridge Mass.

Reinhart, T. (2002) “The theta system - an overview,” in Theoretical linguistics, 28.3, 229-290. Downloadable at

Reinhart, T. and Tal Siloni (to appear) “Thematic Arity Operations and Parametric Variations,” to appear in Linguistic Inquiry . Downloadable at

Recommended Textbook
Title: volume 28, no3 2002 (The Theta System)
Author: Theoretical Linguistics (Journal)
Publisher: Mouton de Gruyter
ISBN: ISSN 0301-4428