The Term Aktionsart

Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 15th, 2012, 9:54 am

Stephen Carlson wrote: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?
I'm not the expert here, but I agree with each of your statements (except for the one about Campbell, since I have not read his work).
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » May 15th, 2012, 10:01 am

The Tatevosov's article was very interesting, although I read it only cursorily. I believe his big idea is this:

There exist "crosslinguistic actional types" as he calls them. If I understand correctly they refer to inherent properties of words. Each word (or maybe one semantic meaning of each word?) belongs to one actional type. Those types have actional characteristics and consist of a set of Vendlerian-type categories. These characteristics are of course possible semantic features of words used in possible contexts for that word - i.e. Vendlerian-type categories. For example, a word may have a set of possible characteristics {{entry into a state}, {state}} depending on context. It therefore belongs to inceptive-stative actional type.

In my opinion this is the way to go, also for Koine. It's not necessary to adopt this as is, but even the name "crosslinguistic actional type" tells that Tatevosov thinks that those types are really applicable to different languages (unlike for example Vendler's original categories which came from English and without further research have often thought to be cross-linguistic). Tatevosov gives 10 types of which only part is probably represented in any given language.

So, if 'actionality' means these actional types, it isn't synonymous to and can't replace 'situation aspect' or 'Aktionsart'.

BTW, can some linguist tell what 'gram' means in the article?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 15th, 2012, 10:23 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:BTW, can some linguist tell what 'gram' means in the article?
I believe it means a "grammatical morpheme" and it can refer any number of ways a language can encode a grammatical concept (inflection, particles, auxiliaries, derivation, etc.). Joan Bybee et al. use this term.
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karivalkama
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by karivalkama » May 16th, 2012, 1:44 am

Kimmo Huovila wrote:
"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"."

I understand that when you say that walk is imperfective, it means that walking is inherently imperfective, its lexical aspect is imperfective and its Aktionsart is imperfective. This is similar to verbs like sleep which inherently talk about non-completed actions, and in contrast with verbs like jump, hit, realize, which inherently talk about completed actions.

I agree with you concerning the distinction between lexical layer and another higher layer. I struggle with your distinction concerning phrasal and grammatical layer. How is 'walked to the store' a different layer than 'was walking to the store'? I think they should belong to the same layer. I think this higher layer can be used for several different tense-aspect functions.

Yours,
Kari Valkama
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KimmoHuovila
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by KimmoHuovila » May 16th, 2012, 2:58 pm

karivalkama wrote:I struggle with your distinction concerning phrasal and grammatical layer. How is 'walked to the store' a different layer than 'was walking to the store'? I think they should belong to the same layer. I think this higher layer can be used for several different tense-aspect functions.
I am not sure how clear my brief comment was. The progressive and non-progressive forms are in the same layer, if that is what you are saying. What I am trying to say is this. "He was walking to the store" is imperfective. The end point is not withing the scope of predication. Or less technically, we don't know if he arrived. "He walked to the store" includes the end point and thus we know that he did arrive. "To walk to the store" has an end point. Thus it is perfective. The English progressive opens (makes imperfective) it by pushing the end point of the action outside the scope of predication.

In other words, we need two layers, because the aspect is different. The same layer cannot be both imperfective and perfective.
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Kimmo Huovila

RDecker
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by RDecker » May 16th, 2012, 6:40 pm

I think we're making a mistake when we try to sort this out in English. How one explains aspect and Aktionsart (or any other similar category you want to use or name you want to ascribe to these concepts) it must be in the terms of the language in question, not one's native language. In another context Stephen Carlson recently pointed me to The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (an exorbitantly expensive, big fat reference grammar of English--$220!). I was interested to read there yesterday (in the library, for obvious reasons!) the following:
“In languages such as Russian there are distinct verb-forms whose basic meanings correspond closely to these two aspectualities, and these languages are therefore said to have perfective and imperfective aspect. English, of course, is not such a language: the simple present and preterite can both be used either perfectively or imperfectively. With reference to English, therefore, the terms will be used wholly for categories of meaning and interpretation” (124).
In other words, English aspect is a pragmatic value based on statements, not on individual verbs as in Russian—and, I think, in Greek. If we assume that we can establish our categories and definitions on the basis of English, we will run into trouble with languages like Russian or Greek which grammaticalize aspect at the semantic level rather than at the pragmatic level of the statement/proposition.
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RandallButh
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by RandallButh » May 17th, 2012, 1:45 am

English aspect is a pragmatic value ... not ... like Russian or Greek which grammaticalize aspect at the semantic level rather than at the pragmatic level
I don't think that such a statement is linguistically helpful. In any language that I have used, a morpho-syntactic category carries its semantics and can be used pragmatically at the same time. English, Russian, and Greek all grammaticalize aspect semantically and use the semantics pragmatically.

English does have aspectual morphosyntactic categories, with aspectual semantics, it's just that they are composite "walked, was walking, has walked", which are the result of historical processes, like, for example, the explicit future aspects in modern Greek 'tha agoraso, tha agorazo' "I will buy, I will be buying".

The interpretation or understanding of any morphosyntactic category in any language must always be done according to the 'pie principle'. The meaning of one piece of a pie is always constrained by the other pieces of the pie. That means that the number of pieces of a pie will also affect the meaning of the pieces. Simple example: ancient Greek future does not distinguish tha grapso//tha grafo. (of course, the ancients could find a way to express such distinctions, it just took extra encoding and processing energy, with extra lexical encoding, e.g.: mello grapsai, mello grafein.) The pie principle is often violated, even in very learned discussions [imagine the ink that could be saved on Hebrew tense-aspect-mood qatal/yiqtol/wayyiqtol/weqatal].
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karivalkama
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by karivalkama » May 19th, 2012, 4:35 pm

In other words, we need two layers, because the aspect is different. The same layer cannot be both imperfective and perfective.
If you mean that each change is its own layer, then it is better not to give them names that mean something else, like lexical layer, grammatical layer, frasal layer. Just call them layer 1, layer 2 etc.

Come to think of it, why call them layers at all? Why not call them utterances or something like that? One utterance has different semantics from the other.

Yours,
Kari
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KimmoHuovila
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by KimmoHuovila » May 20th, 2012, 8:33 am

karivalkama wrote:
In other words, we need two layers, because the aspect is different. The same layer cannot be both imperfective and perfective.
If you mean that each change is its own layer, then it is better not to give them names that mean something else, like lexical layer, grammatical layer, frasal layer. Just call them layer 1, layer 2 etc.
I am fine with your suggestion. The problem with having one layer called phrasal layer is that it may depend on the extent of the phrase. "To go to the store" is different from "To go to the store every day". Yet, I am not sure if there is any harm calling one layer lexical if by it we refer to the lexeme's own aspectual semantics. Most aspect languages express one layer in the verb, and if reference is to that, I think it could be called grammatical aspect as it is expressed using a grammatical category (instead of lexical means). In other languages, such as Bulgarian, this may be confusing, because the Bulgarian verbal morphology can code two layers, not just one, so you would not know which layer is referred to.
karivalkama wrote:Come to think of it, why call them layers at all? Why not call them utterances or something like that? One utterance has different semantics from the other.
To think of layers is helpful in analyzing semantics. When you open a perfective expression by putting it inside an imperfective layer or when you bound an imperfective expression by putting it inside a perfective layers, the semantics are quite predictable. This interaction is what Fanning studied in his dissertation calling the two layers Aktionsart and aspect, but he did not seem to be aware that the same kind of interaction between layers can occur on more than two levels. Thus he missed a generalization.

Also, paying attention to layers helps explain why "I wrote three letters" (in the sense that you finished each one of them, wrote them one after the other with significant time intervals in between) is in Greek "ἔγραψα τρεῖς ἐπιστολάς", using a perfective verbal form, but in Russian "я писал три письма", using an imperfective verbal form. The Greek verb gets its aspect from the outermost semantic layer whereas the Russian verb gets its aspect from the iterated layer ('I wrote letters') that was not yet bounded by the quantity ('three').
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Alan Patterson
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Re: The Term Aktionsart

Post by Alan Patterson » May 21st, 2012, 12:50 pm

The label 'layers' is used to denote SEPARATE and DISTINCT strata of something. They remain layers and do not intermingle, otherwise they cease being layers. Would it make sense to recommend a term that allows for the resultant "mixing" of the "layers" to form a unit of thought. Perhaps something close to the concept of "chemicals" in that H + 2O (letter 'O') makes H2O where the individual components mix to form a new, chemical element. By keeping these "layers" as layers, do we not lose the concept of the resultant mixture/new chemical that emerges.
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