Material Processes 2: Participants

Besides the Actor, there are “a number of other participant roles involved in the process of a material clause” (H & M, p.190).

  1. Scope: The lion crossed the field.

 2.  Recipient: I gave her a letter./ I gave a letter to her. This could also be metaphorical: The ranger sent a warning to the tourist/ The lion gave the tourist a bite on the leg.

3.  Client: I made myself a drink and one for her.

4.  Attribute: The lion ate the tourist clean.


Activity: Actor v Carrier.

Here is a very simple activity I sometimes use with both elementary adult classes and young learners. It focuses attention on the basic difference between Actor-Goal and Carriers-Attribute.

First, on the whiteboard or a piece of paper, write the following:

  1. apples
  2. bananas
  3. peaches
  4. melons
  5. tomatoes
  6. grapes

Under this we could write:

  • Actor – Process – Goal (- Circumstance)

Students then roll a dice and makes sentences, such as 4. – I (Actor) like (Process) melons (Goal) or 2. – My dad eats bananas for breakfast. Write down each sentence as it is said and, after every student has rolled, look as a class at the Actors and how they are (mainly) human. Also look at the Processes (mainly material and some mental)

Once the students have practised this, we could then write:

  •  Carrier – Process – Attribute

This time, the students roll the dice and make sentences, such as 4. – Melons (Carrier) are (Process) sweet (Attribute) or 2. Bananas are yellow. Again, write down each sentence and look at the Carriers (fruit) and Processes (mainly “are” but others such as “look” and “taste” also possible).

Transitivity of Phrasal verbs?

The analysis of phrasal verbs, such as ‘turn [the sound] up’, presents all kinds of problems and debate. H & M (p352) say that “Experientially, a phrasal verb is a single Process” but I’m wondering if there is in fact more than one type: one as a single process and another one as Process + Attribute. This may also explain why some phrasals are separable and some not.

The word ‘up’ may be used as an Attribute, especially with certain electrical or mechanical items. Here is an example from the British National Corpus:

The, the water is the water pressure’s definitely changed. Well it’s changed now cos it ‘s up now.

The analysis of ‘turn [the water] up’ seems to be ‘turn [the water] (to the point where it is) up‘.
H & M (p352) also point out the difference between behavioural ‘see [the sign]’ and material ‘see [my brother] off’ yet it could also be that this is related to the sense of ‘date’ (as in ‘Are you seeing anyone now?’) in which case the analysis might be:

  • I = Actor
  • ‘m seeing = Process
  • my brother = Goal
  • off = Attribute (cf. ‘I’m off now’)

If we compare this, however, with H & M’s analysis of ‘look for’ which would be the non-separable:

  • I = Actor
  • ‘m looking for = Process
  • a needle = Goal

Just a thought…