Argument (definition)

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Clauses consist of two obligatory parts: predicates and 'arguments. Arguments are the participants in the action or state described by the predicate.

The number of arguments is often determined by the particular predicate in use. Take paint and give as examples.

1a) Jones painted a picture.
1b) Jones gave the picture to Smith.

In (1a), Jones and a picture are both required by the verb paint.

In (1b), the verb gave requires three arguments (i.e., it is ditransitive, or has a valence of three). Here, Jones, the picture and to Smith (a prepositional phrase) are all core arguments.

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  • Crystal, D. (2008) Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 6th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.