Null instantiation

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In frame semantics, a theory of linguistic meaning, null instantiation is the name of a category used to annotate, or tag, absent semantic constituents or frame elements (Fillmore et al. 2003, Section 3.4). Frame semantics, best exemplified by the FrameNet project, views words as evoking frames of knowledge and frames as typically involving multiple components, called frame elements (e.g. buyer and goods in an acquisition). The term null refers to the fact that the frame element in question is absent. The logical object of the term instantiation refers to the frame element itself. So, null instantiation is an empty instantiation of a frame element.

Definite null instantiation[edit]

Definite null instantiation is the absence of a frame element that is recoverable from the context. It is similar to a zero anaphor.

Indefinite null instantiation[edit]

Indefinite null instantiation is the absence of the object of a potentially transitive verb such as eat or drink.

Constructional null instantiation[edit]

Constructional null instantiation is the absence of a frame element due to a syntactic construction, e.g. the optional omission of agents in passive sentences.


  1. Fillmore, Charles J.; Christopher R. Johnson; and Miriam R.L. Petruck (2003) Background to FrameNet. 'International Journal of Lexicography' 16(3):235-250.
  2. Fillmore, Charles J. (1986) Pragmatically Controlled Zero Anaphora. 'Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society'.

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