Using verbnet to test whether a sentence matches a frame, how does one determine whether the semantic role specified in the verbnet frame is appearing in the sentence or not?

e.g. on this verbnet class there is a frame Theme V {{+path}} Destination. Is it somewhere specified how is it to be determined for a given sentence, whether it indeed has a Theme role or not, whether or not it indeed has a Destination role or not, in the right location? how does one identify a Destination v.s. a non-Destination?

And likewise is path defined anywhere?

I am not sure I could locate this inside the otherwise definitive description of verbnet found here.

  • Well I have come to understand that is left for statistical machine learning on top annotated training data, and not implied in VerbNet itself.
    – matanox
    Oct 17, 2014 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


I'm trying to figure this out also. Using your example, so far my understanding is: Find the verb in the sentence (ie. escape). This will give you one or more "templates" to check against (Verbnet refers to these as "syntax").

Now find all nouns/noun phrases within the sentence. If the sentence was "The convict escaped from London to New York". In this example we would have one noun phrase before the verb "the convict" and two noun phrases after the verb "London" and "New York" (or "from London" and "to New York" if you prefer. NP V NP NP. This would match to the syntax Theme V {+path} Destination where "the convict" is your theme (because it occurs before the verb, escape is your verb, "London" (or "from London" is your path and "New York" (or "to New York) is your destination.

If the sentence was "The convict escaped to New York" then your would use the syntax Theme V Destination (as there is no path). This is NP V NP. I'm still working on how to select the correct syntax but i guess I'll need to count the number of NP's after the verb to select the correct one although the use of "from" and "to" complicated things as in the example "He escaped from the heat". In this case "from the heat" i guess would be the path and there would be no destination.

Definitions for all terms (Agent, theme, destination) are in the manual you linked however these appear to be only for descriptive purposes. I can't see any way to determine a destination vs a non-destination (ie. He escaped the punishment).

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