Role-dominated and reference-dominated languages

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A language is said to be role-dominated if contrasts between basic semantic roles are directly expressed in its surface structure. Otherwise the language is reference-dominated (Foley & Van Valin 1980, 1984).


A typical example of a role-dominated language is Archi (Nakh-Daghestanian). A typical example of a reference-dominated language is English.


The term pair was created by Foley & Van Valin (1980).


  • Foley, William A. & Van Valin, Robert D. Jr. 1980. Role and reference grammar. In: Moravcsik, Edith (ed.) Current appproaches to syntax. New York: Academic Press, 329-352.
  • Foley, William A. & Van Valin, Robert D., Jr. 1984. Functional syntax and universal grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.