The Term Aktionsart

Stephen Carlson
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The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 4th, 2012, 1:40 pm

The term Aktionsart has had a long history with related, but distinct senses.

Back in the day, the old time grammarians seemed to use Aktionsart as a synonym for "aspect" (Aspekt), but the better, more current usage is to distinguish between lexical aspect and grammatical aspect, which Aktionsart for the former.

With the recent interested in pragmatic considerations, some have begun using Aktionsart for the pragmatic aspect as well (e.g. Con Campbell). Although I think the context is usually good enough to see which sense is intended, I would like to keep these kinds of aspect (lexical, grammatical, pragmatic) distinct, with distinct terminology.

What would be a good term for pragmatic aspect/Aktionsart?
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » May 4th, 2012, 3:26 pm

Thanks for bringing this up. It's very important to distinguish these usages, otherwise it's very confusing. I was confused when I first noticed that linguistics use the term differently than NT Greek research.

I have also thought about the problem of using 'Aktionsart' for the pragmatic categories. Actually the greatest problem, in my opinion, is this: why there is any term at all for those categories? To be logical and comprehensive, there should be names for all kinds of final categories, for example for nouns. Why not 'Dingsart'? Maybe because it's not needed. And do we need a name for verbal categories? Why not just, well 'categories', just as they are?
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 4th, 2012, 4:25 pm

Well, generally, we have names for categories, features, concepts, etc. because they are useful in our theories about how language etc. works.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » May 4th, 2012, 5:12 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Well, generally, we have names for categories, features, concepts, etc. because they are useful in our theories about how language etc. works.
Yes, but what I have been questioning is whether a replacement word for 'pragmatic categories of verb' is needed any more than a replacement word for 'pragmatic categories of noun'. Now it's called 'Aktionsart', but is the reason for having a name for it only because of historical reasons or for some actual need? Think about this: I have read linguistic semantics but I haven't found a comparable term for Koine 'Aktionsart' there. Even linguists haven't seen a need for a technical term for 'pragmatic categories of verb' - why then should Koine have one? Actually your original question, "What would be a good term for pragmatic aspect/Aktionsart?", is a good indicator of that. If there already exists a term for that in linguistics, we should of course use that. If not, why would we need it at all?

I don't mean that we shouldn't have a term for that. All I mean is I have wondered whether one is really needed, and why. Please tell me.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 4th, 2012, 6:19 pm

I like these three terms:
  • Lexical aspect
  • Grammatical aspect
  • Semantic aspect
I no longer use the term Aktionsart when I can help it, because it's overloaded these days.
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MAubrey
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by MAubrey » May 4th, 2012, 7:25 pm

A couple of thoughts:

First we need to recognize a distinction between "verb" and "predicate." The former is a part-of-speech involving individual lexemes. The latter is a semantic entity that may or may not coincide with the former. All verbs are predicates, but not all predicates are verbs. I would suggest its best to think of it this way: syntax and semantics exist in parallel:

Syntax:
  • Clause:
    • Verb
      arguments
Semantics:
  • Proposition:
    • Predicate
      participants
Secondly, we need to define what the difference between semantics and pragmatics is. Contrary to Campbell, it is not merely "cancel-ability." Semantic features are:

1) going to affect the propositional content of a clause.
2) are realized grammatically in some form (not necessarily morphologically)

Pragmatic features tend to not affect propositional content and are inferred or implied rather than being realized. They're implications that arise as much from cultural--sociological factors as they do from any culmination of linguistic entities.

Categories of aktionsart cannot be viewed as pragmatic because they're grammatically realized via the realization of various types of adverbials and prepositional phrases (e.g. duration), so they are not pragmatic categories of the verb. They're purely semantic, but they're semantic features of the proposition, not semantics features of the verb or the clause.

Linguists do use the term aktionsart. You'll find it in just about all the literature on tense and aspect.

Personally, I follow the terminology put forward by Carlota Smith (who has been followed by a number of linguists and recently past away):

Grammatical Aspect (i.e. perfective, imperfective, etc.)
Situation Aspect (i.e. States, Activities, Accomplishments, etc.)

Smith prefers the term "situation aspect" to "lexical aspect" because this type of aspect goes beyond the confines of the verb and involves the semantics of the entire clause.

At the same time, the line between them cannot be firmly drawn. There's no theoretical reason (aside from a priori assumptions) that situation aspect cannot be realized morphologically in the verb (e.g. the view that the perfect is stative).
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 4th, 2012, 8:39 pm

MAubrey wrote:Personally, I follow the terminology put forward by Carlota Smith (who has been followed by a number of linguists and recently past away):

Grammatical Aspect (i.e. perfective, imperfective, etc.)
Situation Aspect (i.e. States, Activities, Accomplishments, etc.)

Smith prefers the term "situation aspect" to "lexical aspect" because this type of aspect goes beyond the confines of the verb and involves the semantics of the entire clause.
Thanks for mentioning Carlota Smith. Her website is here: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~carlota/ (She died in 2007.)

She has some of her papers on the website, which is nice. She is a proponent of a three-time theory for tense (situation time, reference time, and speaker time), which I like. Note that the reference time is pragmatically determined, so it is impossible to avoid pragmatics in her theory.

As for the terminology, her actual terms are (aspectual) viewpoint and situation type, respectively. I know that every linguists seems to want their own terminology -- and I'm as guilty of that as anyone else -- but I don't think viewpoint is any more precise than aspect (they are basically synonymous) and her use of "type" makes the concept even vaguer than an overloaded "aspect."

Her "situation type" basically seems to correspond to the Vendler categories, with the common fix of including "semelfactives" (atelic punctual situations).

My preferred term for Aktionsart or "lexical aspect" is actionality, which seems to be gaining popularity in recent years. It too corresponds to the Vendler categories and avoids the confines of the verb. On this, see the beginning of Sergei Tatavosov's article, The Parameter of Actionality.

Nevertheless, I do think that it useful to talk about the result of integrating Aktionsart and grammatical aspect in a particular context (e.g., iterative, customary, complexive, ingressive, etc.). I'm just looking for a convenient term for that. S. W. Baugh suggests "aspectual nuance," which is OK but doesn't float my boat.

Stephen
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RandallButh
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by RandallButh » May 5th, 2012, 1:54 am

Jonathan wrote;
I like these three terms:

Lexical aspect
Grammatical aspect
Semantic aspect
I'm a little confused by the terms as stated. 'Lexical aspect' is part of the lexical semantics of a verb, and 'grammatical aspect' refers to semantic categorical operators in a language, e.g., like perfective/imperfective. And not being a slavic linguist I am spared some layers of complication.

However I am confused by 'semantic aspect' when juxtaposed with the other two. I see 'lexical aspect' and 'grammatical aspect' as subsummed by 'semantics'. but my personal use of the terms would equate 'grammatical aspect' with 'semantic aspect'.

So I would re-write for my clarity

Lexical aspect
Grammatical aspect = Semantic aspect

In other words, there are only two distinguishable categories here and I would collapse the three into two:
lexcial aspect (or appropriately renamed along above discussions)
grammatical aspect (or appropriately renamed)
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » May 5th, 2012, 5:35 am

MAubrey wrote: Linguists do use the term aktionsart. You'll find it in just about all the literature on tense and aspect.
Of course, but what does it mean for them? If you refer to my earlier "I haven't found a comparable term for Koine 'Aktionsart' there" I meant that there's no one neat word for the thing which is nowadays meant with Koine 'Aktionsart', i.e. the final grammatical categorization of verb usages. (At least Con Campbell seems to mean that with 'Aktionsart', but not necessarily everyone else does.)

I think the problem is that the older Koine grammarians used 'Aktionsart' for what is now called 'grammatical/morphological aspect', but they described it in a way which led to confusion when nonexperts interpreted it. The greatest confusion was, of course, between semantics of verb and actual real world events, so that 'punctual' - which was originally used to describe the aspect of aorist - was interpreted to mean the actual event. Later general linguists used 'Aktionsart' for lexical aspect, but some Koine philologists seem to have adopted the term for the final grammatical categories. So, the term has been professionally used for all three levels - lexical aspect, grammatical aspect and propositional aspect. Nonprofessionally it has been used also for real world event type: something happened once for all etc.

That's my interpretation, YMMV. What's the detailed history of the term 'Aktionsart' in both general linguistics and Koine?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 5th, 2012, 9:00 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:My preferred term for Aktionsart or "lexical aspect" is actionality, which seems to be gaining popularity in recent years. It too corresponds to the Vendler categories and avoids the confines of the verb. On this, see the beginning of Sergei Tatavosov's article, The Parameter of Actionality.
Tatavosov's article starts off with a quote on the terminological Tower of Babel here:
Actionality – also known as Aktionsart, aspectual class, aspectual character (Lyons 1977), situation type (Smith 1991), eventuality type (Bach 1996, Filip 1999), action (Bache 1995a, b), state of affairs (Dik 1989), taxonomic category (Paduceva 1996), as well as under a few other terms – is a semantic characteristic that shows up in differences between sentences like (1)–(4):
He then has a nice chart of what Vendler proposed and all the various proposed modifications to his system.

Stephem
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