The Term Aktionsart

MAubrey
Posts: 1000
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by MAubrey » May 6th, 2012, 10:07 pm

RDecker wrote:Let's not absolutize the rejection of objective language altogether. :) It is true in a **relative** sense that verbal aspect (perfective, imperfective, etc.) is *more subjective* than Aktionsart in that Aktionsart is more dependent on the lexeme chosen to describe the action/situation. I can use almost any of the aspects to describe a particular situation, but the nature of the event constrains me in some significant ways when it comes to Aktionsart. I cannot chose to use "he ran" in place of "he is writing." But in another sense, yes, both aspect and Aktionsart are subjective to some degree.
From that perspective, I would generally agree. But the same is equally true of aspect, to some degree--which is why Moises Silva argued in much of his response work on aspect in the 90s that lexemes must be taken into account. Likewise, it is true that "he ran" cannot be used in in place of "he is writing," but at the same time, depending on how a speaker wants to present the event of running to his/her audience, the speaker *can* make a choice between presenting running as a basic activity: "he ran," or an accomplishment: "he ran to the lake." Both are constrained by the grammatical system and the speaker's conception of reality, but neither objectively represent reality. With that said, the more abstract predicate classes/aktionsart types tend to be more constrained by the external world. This is especially true of Achievements (Lightening flashed in the sky) and semelfactives (The audience clapped for the orchestra). States and Activities are more easily manipulable by speakers. But I suppose, in favor of your point, this fact itself is lexically constrained since States and Activities also tend to involve more basic predications expressing more low level situations--that is, "being" and "doing" are directly derivable from basic components of human cognition: the perceptual system (being) and the motor system (doing) (<-- ooh, that would be great as an article in the journal Cognitive Linguistics...).
RDecker wrote:A different term would not be unwelcome, but let's not assume it's a done deal just from discussion on this list. Nor can it be an "unfriendly" term if it's going to gain acceptance from the "mainstream" users and not just linguists and some NT scholars. Aspect has undergone a healthy debate for over 20 years now. Aktionsart has not had that benefit. Even though Fanning's work was largely about Aktionsart, that portion of his work has been too much ignored. There is certainly other work, but nothing that has received sufficient attention to provide any consensus regarding definition, terminology, or significance. We need that debate first before we declare terminology here. We could use a few good dissertations or at least some substantive journal articles to help put things in focus. The back-and-forth, snippet-level discussion here won't accomplish much in the bigger picture.
I'm must apologize if I seemed to suggest that it was good to simply change things independent of debate. My advocacy of such a terminological change is more practical than that: both the terms Situation Aspect and Predicate Class are methodologically and theoretically transparent in their meaning in a way that aktionsart never was (unless you were German). The same can be said for the term Actionality that Stephen has suggested. To my mind, their transparency provides them with an inherent usefulness for making the categories themselves more accessible than they have been previous. If anything, I would even been perfectly fine with a variety of terminology being used (Simon Dik's Functional Grammar uses the term "State-of-Affairs") as long as the term itself is transparent so that readers can relatively easily recognize that we're talking about the same thing.

Beyond that, I would venture to say that in general the categories for aktionsart are rather well defined in the broader linguistic literature. For linguistics that debate has been going on for some time, even if it hasn't in Koine studies, but I know (and partially understand) your view toward cross-linguistic and typological linguistics and its applicability to Greek and recognize that you are more cautious about it than I am. I've had similar discussion with Larry Perkins over here at Trinity Western on the subject.
0 x


Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Stephen Carlson
Posts: 2848
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne
Contact:

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 7th, 2012, 12:42 pm

RDecker wrote:A different term would not be unwelcome, but let's not assume it's a done deal just from discussion on this list. Nor can it be an "unfriendly" term if it's going to gain acceptance from the "mainstream" users and not just linguists and some NT scholars. Aspect has undergone a healthy debate for over 20 years now. Aktionsart has not had that benefit. Even though Fanning's work was largely about Aktionsart, that portion of his work has been too much ignored. There is certainly other work, but nothing that has received sufficient attention to provide any consensus regarding definition, terminology, or significance. We need that debate first before we declare terminology here. We could use a few good dissertations or at least some substantive journal articles to help put things in focus. The back-and-forth, snippet-level discussion here won't accomplish much in the bigger picture.
Well, of course, it is in the very nature of these forums and other internet places that we're not going to impose anything on anyone. I agree that Fanning's books highlights the importance of Aktionsart. Unfortunately, this important aspect of his book was largely overlooked, I believe in part because the Porter-Fanning debate turned on the question whether Greek grammaticalized tense, but also in part because Fanning's book is too expensive and unavailable. (If you want a copy now, it's like $300 on the used book market, which is ridiculous.)

I wouldn't be putting up a stink now but for the fact that Campbell is using the term Aktionsart in a different meaning. I wish I could just ignore Campbell, but what he's doing actually seems useful, so I'm requesting a non-overloaded term for what he's doing. The closest I get in the literature is something like the "use" of the tense/aspect form.

As for junking the term Aktionsart altogether, well, I have to admit that I really not a fan of unnativized German terminology in English. I think it's pretentious and tends to make things less accessible to outsiders. Plus there's no payoff in this particular instance because of the lack of precision in its name ("type of action") and the inconsistency of its uses over its history. If linguists and grammarians are continuing to use this term, fine, but I don't think we're seeing it. Rather, we have Campbell using it with a different meaning and the current trend in linguistics, as I sense it, is to avoid it favor of more recent buzzwords. Nevertheless, if you want to keep using the term, I should know what you mean.

Stephen
0 x
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

MAubrey
Posts: 1000
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by MAubrey » May 13th, 2012, 3:49 pm

RDecker wrote:A different term would not be unwelcome, but let's not assume it's a done deal just from discussion on this list. Nor can it be an "unfriendly" term if it's going to gain acceptance from the "mainstream" users and not just linguists and some NT scholars. Aspect has undergone a healthy debate for over 20 years now. Aktionsart has not had that benefit. Even though Fanning's work was largely about Aktionsart, that portion of his work has been too much ignored. There is certainly other work, but nothing that has received sufficient attention to provide any consensus regarding definition, terminology, or significance. We need that debate first before we declare terminology here. We could use a few good dissertations or at least some substantive journal articles to help put things in focus. The back-and-forth, snippet-level discussion here won't accomplish much in the bigger picture.
Rod, the more I think about this, the more it occurs to me that I not sure what would need to be debated. In your mind, what does the debate need to look like on this topic, particularly since the broader linguistic work has now been discussing the subject for 50+ years?
0 x
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

RDecker
Posts: 46
Joined: May 31st, 2011, 7:10 pm
Location: Clarks Summit, PA
Contact:

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by RDecker » May 13th, 2012, 6:36 pm

MAubrey wrote:Rod, the more I think about this, the more it occurs to me that I not sure what would need to be debated. In your mind, what does the debate need to look like on this topic, particularly since the broader linguistic work has now been discussing the subject for 50+ years?
There may well have been such a debate in linguistics as there was of aspect. The difference, as I see it, is that we've had several pioneering works in NT studies that have mined this research on aspect and offered specific proposals as to how aspect works in Koine and, just as importantly, how this ought to be integrated into NT studies/exegesis in terms of both terminology and significance. It's this work that's been debated in NT studies since ca. 1990. Though Fanning also did considerable work in Aktionsart, this has not gotten the attention or discussion that aspect did--though, IMHO, it was his work on Aktionsart that may have the greater value. Traditional grammar has employed a wide range of terms that profess to describe various uses of the tenses (tendential, inceptive, etc.). How are these to be related to the work on Aktionsart? (I'm pretty confident that they cannot and should not be related to aspect.) I still hear these terms used almost invariably in NT studies in relation to the tenses, even by many who claim to be taking account of aspect. That, I think, is a wrong-headed approach. I'd argue to the contrary that the descriptions thus employed are related to Aktionsart (not tense or aspect) and that these descriptions can only validly be related to statements/propositions, not individual verbs. So far as I know, there has been no major discussion of these issues in NT studies in the decades since 1990.

Some might think that these issues have been settled in linguistics (though I have my doubts that there is unanimity there), but you have to remember that I'm a NT guy--one who doesn't assume that cross-linguistic generalizations apply carte blanche in Koine and who expects that the discussion needs to follow a similar course as it has for aspect--ideally with some seminal, pioneering dissertation-level studies with the ensuing debate.
0 x
Rodney J. Decker
Prof/NT
Baptist Bible Seminary
Clarks Summit, PA
(See profile for my NTResources blog address.)

KimmoHuovila
Posts: 50
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 8:57 am

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by KimmoHuovila » May 14th, 2012, 9:39 am

RDecker wrote:Traditional grammar has employed a wide range of terms that profess to describe various uses of the tenses (tendential, inceptive, etc.). How are these to be related to the work on Aktionsart? (I'm pretty confident that they cannot and should not be related to aspect.) I still hear these terms used almost invariably in NT studies in relation to the tenses, even by many who claim to be taking account of aspect. That, I think, is a wrong-headed approach. I'd argue to the contrary that the descriptions thus employed are related to Aktionsart (not tense or aspect) and that these descriptions can only validly be related to statements/propositions, not individual verbs. So far as I know, there has been no major discussion of these issues in NT studies in the decades since 1990.
Why do you think that Aktionsart is substantially different from aspect? Would you use Comrie's definition of aspect ("aspects are different ways of viewing the internal temporal constituency of a situation")? Would you see Comrie's definition as covering both aspect and Aktionsart?
0 x
Kimmo Huovila

Alan Patterson
Posts: 158
Joined: September 3rd, 2011, 7:21 pm
Location: Emory University

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Alan Patterson » May 15th, 2012, 7:34 am

Can anyone critique my understanding of Lexical, Grammatical, and Contextual Aspects.

Lexical Aspect deals with the inherent features of a given verbal root (the LU in LUW). Grammatical Aspect deals with the Tenses (the LUW of LU; the 7 choices of how to portray the verbal idea, such as Imperfect, Aorist, Pluperfect, etc.). And Contextual Aspect is an endless number of ways to use -- Lexical + Grammatical Aspects of a given verbal expression -- in various sets of circumstances. Grammatical Aspect, by itself, is how and when the verbal idea is expressed. All 3 Aspects (Lexical, Grammatical, and Contextual) form the semantics of a word/phrase/clause.

As you can see, I'm not a linguist nor am I well read on Aspects.
0 x
χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη,
Alan Patterson

RandallButh
Posts: 1030
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by RandallButh » May 15th, 2012, 8:51 am

Alan Patterson wrote:Can anyone critique my understanding of Lexical, Grammatical, and Contextual Aspects.

Lexical Aspect deals with the inherent features of a given verbal root (the LU in LUW). Grammatical Aspect deals with the Tenses (the LUW of LU; the 7 choices of how to portray the verbal idea, such as Imperfect, Aorist, Pluperfect, etc.). And Contextual Aspect is an endless number of ways to use -- Lexical + Grammatical Aspects of a given verbal expression -- in various sets of circumstances. Grammatical Aspect, by itself, is how and when the verbal idea is expressed. All 3 Aspects (Lexical, Grammatical, and Contextual) form the semantics of a word/phrase/clause.

As you can see, I'm not a linguist nor am I well read on Aspects.
1. Yes, 'lexical aspect' is part of the semantics of a verb, but it can sometimes change, between, e.g., 'walked' and 'walked to the store'
2. No, 'grammatical aspect' does not cover seven aspectual choices, rather it involves three aspects, which are grouped as 'imperfective' (present, imperfect), 'perfective' (aorist, [and some might add the future, though technically neutral]), 'perfect' (perfect, pluperfect, future perfect).
3. 'Contextual' is the interplay of the first two within a context.

While semantics can refer to the three items above, the last item 'Contextual' often interacts with a paramater of grammar/communication called 'pragmatics', which affects the presentation of a communication. E.g., does the predication frame get communicated in a finite verb clause or is it compressed into a participle or infinitive clause? Do the semantics get used in default senses, or against their default sense (e.g. historical present, where neither the imperfective aspect nor the present time have a natural fit). Linguists often divide the 'grammatical' world up into Syntax, Semantics, and Pragmatics, while admitting interrelatedness.

Unfortunately, aktionsart has been used by different people for any one of the three above, making it a term that always needs definition by anyone using it, though there is a tendency to attribute it to lexical aspect as the most common usage today.
0 x

Eeli Kaikkonen
Posts: 447
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 7:49 am
Location: Finland
Contact:

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » May 15th, 2012, 9:06 am

Alan Patterson wrote:Can anyone critique my understanding of Lexical, Grammatical, and Contextual Aspects.
Yes, anyone can critique that. :)
Lexical Aspect deals with the inherent features of a given verbal root (the LU in LUW). Grammatical Aspect deals with the Tenses (the LUW of LU; the 7 choices of how to portray the verbal idea, such as Imperfect, Aorist, Pluperfect, etc.). And Contextual Aspect is an endless number of ways to use -- Lexical + Grammatical Aspects of a given verbal expression -- in various sets of circumstances. Grammatical Aspect, by itself, is how and when the verbal idea is expressed. All 3 Aspects (Lexical, Grammatical, and Contextual) form the semantics of a word/phrase/clause.

As you can see, I'm not a linguist nor am I well read on Aspects.
IANAL either. But as far as I have understood you could be quite close. However, there's ambiguity about these levels - let alone the terms - in linguistics. If 'lexical aspect' or 'Aktionsart' means Vendlerian-type categories, they do not deal with "the inherent features of a given verbal root". Instead they are closer to contextual (or 'propositional' as I called it earlier) aspect in that they work more at the level of the whole proposition or clause. Yet they are distinct from the traditional grammatical categories. But even many linguists seem to think that lexical aspect is about words (roots, lexemes, lemmas?).

There is of course endless number of ways to use words, morphology etc. in different contexts, but if we talk about categories, that's not what's meant. Traditional grammatical verbal categories can be seen as 'contextual aspect', but there's no endless number of categories. There's endless number of ways to use those categories (like there's endless number of ways to use words, yet limited number of semantical meanings).
0 x

KimmoHuovila
Posts: 50
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 8:57 am

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by KimmoHuovila » May 15th, 2012, 9:35 am

RandallButh wrote: 1. Yes, 'lexical aspect' is part of the semantics of a verb, but it can sometimes change, between, e.g., 'walked' and 'walked to the store'
To me, lexical aspect sounds like it should be a lexical phenomenon. 'Walked to the store' is aspectually different from 'walked', but the difference is not in lexical aspect per se. It is in the phrasal level. This is why Vendlerian classification is not just lexical business.

The lexeme 'walk' is imperfective (lexical layer), 'walked to the store' is perfective (phrasal layer), and 'was walking to the store' is imperfective (grammatical layer). All these layers contribute to the meaning of the sentence in "He was walking to the store".

The reason why I don't find it very helpful to use separate terms 'Aktionsart' and 'aspect' is that there may be an indefinite number of layers to deal with, illustrated by your example of 'walked' and 'walked to the store'. The terminology tends to make one focus on only two layers. Also it tends to obscure what the two have in common: they both are different ways of viewing the internal temporal constituency of a situation.
0 x
Kimmo Huovila

Stephen Carlson
Posts: 2848
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne
Contact:

Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 15th, 2012, 9:41 am

OK, let me sum up where I think the discussion stands:
  • The term Aktionsart has been used by different writers over different times for a variety of different aspect-related concepts.
  • Some prefer different terms for lexical, grammatical/morphological, context/pragmatic aspect; others like reusing the word aspect with an appropriate adjective. (Personally, I prefer not to reuse and overload terms.)
  • The most common use today is that the term Aktionsart refers to lexical aspect or perhaps the actionality of the state of affairs described by predicate. (I understand there is a debate among linguists about this point, and some languages may behave differently.)
  • Con Campbell's use of the term Aktionsart for a use of aspect and lexis in context appears to be fairly unique, but there is no accepted nomenclature for it despite the usefulness of the concept. (The grammars I consulted tend simply to use the word use.)
Yes? No?
0 x
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Post Reply

Return to “Syntax and Grammar”