I would like to ask for help with the clarification of some semantic roles.

I am not sure what semantic role may be assigned to SUBJECT in the sentences with ´to have´

I need to assign role in the German sentence Das Buch hat ein neues Kapitel. (-The book has a new chapter.)

The German grammar book I have (Deutsche Grammatik, Helbig/Buscha) mentions RELATIONSTRÄGER in the sentence with have: Die Frau hat blondes Haar. (The woman has got blonde hair.)

Die Frau is labelled in this relation as the dominant, superordinate element, whereas blondes Haar as the subordinate element.

What semantic roles, however, should I mention in English? The sentence pattern with to have is SVO, or? AGENT, EXPERIENCER, etc.?

Thank you for your answers, have a nice day. Lenka

  • There is no accepted inventory of roles refined enough to supply convincing labels for all the subjects of "haben". In "Das Buch hat ein neues Kapitel", the subject could arguably be labelled 'Locative' (cf. There is a new chapter IN the book), in "Die Frau hat ein Auto", 'Possessor', in "Die Frau hat Angst", 'Experiencer',... etc. but "haben" is too abstract. That H&B should have proposed such an empty label as "Relationsträger" in an 'easy' case like "Die Frau hat blondes Haar" is quite a confession of impotence in this respect. Your question has no generally accepted answer, I'm afraid.
    – user6814
    Mar 17, 2015 at 18:39
  • "Have" is an odd beast. I think that something like Dowty's protoroles or Jackendoff's roles on the action tier (actor, patient) are a better option.
    – Atamiri
    Mar 17, 2015 at 19:31
  • @Atamiri: So I just put there just AGENT for the subject and PATIENT for the object? Thanks
    – Lenka
    Mar 20, 2015 at 9:02
  • In some theories, yes. Sometimes it's called actor, this "role" groups the agent and force.
    – Atamiri
    Mar 20, 2015 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


Dative. When you give something to someone , you cause them to have it . Possession in Russian is expressed using a preposition "y" that translates as "to" (though I don't know whether it can be called "dative") -- U menya kniga for "I have a book" = to me (is) a book.

  • Russian "y" means "at" (adessive). "U menya kniga" literally means "at me is book". The dative form would be "mne", as in "chto mne delat" (what shall I do, literally: what to me do).
    – Atamiri
    Mar 17, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    Dative isn't a semantic role.
    – TKR
    Mar 17, 2015 at 17:54
  • @TKR, do you know of evidence that dative isn't a semantic role? Or do you mean it doesn't appear on a list someone has made?
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 17, 2015 at 19:21
  • Dative is the name of a case, which is a morphosyntactic category, not a semantic category.
    – TKR
    Mar 17, 2015 at 23:03
  • @TKR, so names of semantic categories can't be the same as the names of morphosyntactic categories? Why?
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 17, 2015 at 23:15

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