Aktionsart

Stephen Carlson
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Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » November 28th, 2013, 5:39 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:1. Stan Porter really does not like the Aktionsart approach of Fanning, and, in my opinion, most modern treatments of aspect outside of Koine Greek. It's not clear to me what the basis for his dislike is, but it seems to have affected his reading of those linguists who do accept the concept of Aktionsart, as Con Campbell was able to point out. (I does not help that some of them say "aspect" when Aktionsart is closer to what was meant.
If there is anyone reasonably familiar with Stan Porter's thinking, can he or she please explain why he does not incorporate Aktionsart into his system. That seems to be the basic point of disagreement with Fanning, and as far as I can tell, Fanning is well within the mainstream of modern linguistic thinking on the topic.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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MAubrey
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by MAubrey » November 28th, 2013, 9:55 am

I'm not sure if any of those people hang out with us on these interwebs, which is something that I've always found a little disappointing.
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by Robert Burcham » November 29th, 2013, 1:53 pm

Stanley Porter views verbal aspect as "a matter of reasoned subjective choice by the speaker" (Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, 335), which is semantic to the tense-form of the verb. He views Aktionsart, i.e., kind of action, as pragmatic. Porter's firm division between semantic and pragmatic underlies his disagreement with theorists who view Aktionsart as affecting aspectual choice and thereby impacting the semantics of the verb.

For a summary of the debate, see D.A. Carson, "An Introduction to the Porter/Fanning Debate," in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (ed. Stanley E. Porter and D.A. Carson; JSNTSup 80; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1993), 21–25. This volume also contains articles by Porter and Buist Fanning that describe their respective positions.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by Barry Hofstetter » November 30th, 2013, 10:55 am

Robert Burcham wrote:Stanley Porter views verbal aspect as "a matter of reasoned subjective choice by the speaker" (Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, 335), which is semantic to the tense-form of the verb. He views Aktionsart, i.e., kind of action, as pragmatic. Porter's firm division between semantic and pragmatic underlies his disagreement with theorists who view Aktionsart as affecting aspectual choice and thereby impacting the semantics of the verb.

For a summary of the debate, see D.A. Carson, "An Introduction to the Porter/Fanning Debate," in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (ed. Stanley E. Porter and D.A. Carson; JSNTSup 80; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1993), 21–25. This volume also contains articles by Porter and Buist Fanning that describe their respective positions.
This article wouldn't happen to be online somewhere, would it?
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by MAubrey » November 30th, 2013, 11:03 am

Well, that's kind of an answer, I suppose. Though I doubt Stephen isn't already aware of all of that. He's certainly read that book...just like he's already read Porter's dissertation/monograph.

So perhaps it would be more useful if the question was framed slightly differently:

What is Porter's methodological justification for the manner in which he (arbitrarily) divides semantics and pragmatics?
What motivation does Porter have for putting aktionsart/actionality within the confines of pragmatics, contrary to the consensus of the broader linguistic literature? Is there someone that he would refer to as a reference for that distinction?

As far as I know, the idea that actionality/aktionsart is a pragmatic phenomenon is a highly novel idea in my reading of the linguistic literature. Not even Verkuyl has gone that far. I'm not sure that I've seen it anywhere. A number of linguistic framework have even gone as far as integrating it within their semantic representations. So when Porter disregards aktionsart entirely, he needs to taken some extensive time to back up the claim, both theoretically and methodologically. And appealing to an additional controversial idea (his division of semantics and pragmatics) doesn't really contribute anything at all to answering the question.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:This article wouldn't happen to be online somewhere, would it?
Nope. But I could e-mail it to you.
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by Barry Hofstetter » November 30th, 2013, 11:16 am

MAubrey wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:This article wouldn't happen to be online somewhere, would it?
Nope. But I could e-mail it to you.
If you wouldn't mind doing so, I'd appreciate it.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 2nd, 2013, 4:33 am

Robert Burcham wrote:Stanley Porter views verbal aspect as "a matter of reasoned subjective choice by the speaker" (Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, 335), which is semantic to the tense-form of the verb. He views Aktionsart, i.e., kind of action, as pragmatic. Porter's firm division between semantic and pragmatic underlies his disagreement with theorists who view Aktionsart as affecting aspectual choice and thereby impacting the semantics of the verb.
Thanks for jumping in, Robert. I agree with your statement of Porter's view on verbal aspect. He makes a big deal about it being a "reasoned subjective choice" of the speaker. In fact, it is in terms of subjectivity and objectivity that his dissertation distinguishes between aspect and Aktionsart. Specifically, he discussed the century-old approach to Aktionsart and characterized it as viewing the action "objectively," which allowed him to disregard that objective view as irrelevant to his system. Personally, I have not found his dismissal of the old Aktionsart particularly persuasive because I felt that he over-emphasized whatever objectivity the notion may have had (in fact, he even castigated the old proponents for being contradictory when they discussed Aktionsart in subjective terms).

Also, Porter does not engage in his dissertation (as far as I can tell--the index is horrible) the Vendlerian view of Aktionsart, even though Vendler's famously seminal piece is cited in his bibliography. It is this approach of Vendler that Fanning takes up in his contemporaneous dissertation, and the past two decades in linguistic study has demonstrated how productive this approach has been. In the SBL session, Porter specifically addressed Vendler, even by name, saying that he had major problems with it. This decision of Porter's takes him out of the linguistic mainstream (it doesn't mean he's wrong, of course, but it means that there will be less support for his views in the literature as it grows over time, in contrast with Fanning). Yet Porter's dissertation didn't really take Vendler head on and the objection to the old school of Aktionart was over a purported objective-subjective distinction, so I was left wondering what the specific basis of Porter's criticism vis-à-vis Vendlerian Aktionsart was.

I don't claim to be an expert on Porter's thinking, but I have to admit that I'm fairly surprised that his disagreement with Aktionsart has something to do with a distinction between semantics and pragmatics. I thought the problem with the old school Aktionart was that it was too objective, not that it was too pragmatic.
Robert Burcham wrote:For a summary of the debate, see D.A. Carson, "An Introduction to the Porter/Fanning Debate," in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (ed. Stanley E. Porter and D.A. Carson; JSNTSup 80; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1993), 21–25. This volume also contains articles by Porter and Buist Fanning that describe their respective positions.
Thanks for this cite. It's been a while since I've read that. I will consult it again on this particular point and see if it is helpful.
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 4th, 2013, 9:36 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Robert Burcham wrote:For a summary of the debate, see D.A. Carson, "An Introduction to the Porter/Fanning Debate," in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (ed. Stanley E. Porter and D.A. Carson; JSNTSup 80; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1993), 21–25. This volume also contains articles by Porter and Buist Fanning that describe their respective positions.
Thanks for this cite. It's been a while since I've read that. I will consult it again on this particular point and see if it is helpful.
Now that I've consulted this, I'm not sure I have a much better insight into Porter's rejection of Aktionsart. Fanning lays out the issue quite well; he views verbal meaning as a combination of Aktionsart (his preferred term is "procedural character," based on both the lexical meaning of the verb and its arguments), aspect, tense, and other features. Porter does not seem to be interested in that; rather, he wants to know just what aspect means and proposes something that Fanning finds to be unhelpfully vague. Fanning takes Porter to task in not being interested in Aktionsart, leading him to overlook important parts of his sources. Indeed, Con Campbell's response to Porter's criticisms at this SBL also took Porter to task over not appreciating the distinction between aspect and Aktionsart in the works of other theorists. It is almost as if there is a blind spot in Porter to Aktionsart. I want to understand why.

There is some language in this volume that Porter's interest is semantic while Fanning's is pragmatic. Maybe that explains the lack of interest in Porter about Aktionsart--maybe he thinks the interaction of aspect with it is pragmatic, and he's not so interested in pragmatics. But I don't quite see it that way. Fanning's approach is still semantic, in that he's looking at the composition of a set of semantic values. Unlike Porter, he's not looking for that single semantic atom that can define aspect in terms that invariably hold.
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by Robert Burcham » December 4th, 2013, 3:12 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:It is almost as if there is a blind spot in Porter to Aktionsart. I want to understand why.
Consulting K.L. McKay's work may help explain Porter's view of a firm division between semantic and pragmatic, subjective and objective. Porter follows many of McKay's conclusions, including aspect as a subjective view of the author contra Aktionsart (see Porter's Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, 48–50).
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Re: Aktionsart

Post by RandallButh » December 5th, 2013, 8:07 am

As far as I know, the idea that actionality/aktionsart is a pragmatic phenomenon is a highly novel idea in my reading of the linguistic literature.
Amen. Traditionally, aktionsart is rooted in the lexical semantics of a verb, thus "semantics", not "pragmatics."
For example, "swim" is inherently and lexically more durative than "hit". However, a speaker can choose to put either verb in either an imperfective aspect (not viewing the endpoint and internally partial) or a perfective aspect (including the endpoint in view and internally indivisible [hence the 'viewed from outside' metaphor]). And yes, the interaction of the lexical aktionsart and aspect can produce further pragmatic effects, but one should not thereby define the lexical semantic-aktionsart as "pragmatic." Calling aktionsart "pragmatic" is a red herring and would lead the discussion into a mistaken framework based on mistaken starting points. We discussed this on b-greek 2 or 3 years ago. At the time I objected to letting Campbell arbitrarily define aktsionart as "prgamatic" and got some squawk. But that doesn't change the name of the game. Aktionsart is rooted in lexical semantics and the basic categorizations are semantic, not pragmatic. Letting Porter-Campbell mis-define the discussion would only highlight poverty in discussions of NT linguistics.

This is very similar to the discussions on pragmatics and discourse. Porter's definitions of Foreground and Background are backwards, they are upsidedown from the rest of the field of linguistics, In general linguistics perfective is the Foreground frame of narration. What NT linguistic discussions need to do, is simply point out that Porter's labels are mis-categorized for general linguistic discussion. NT linguists and general linguistics have different categorizations so there is no reason to try and figure out the sources of where and why Porter has scrambled things. NT students need to be told that Porter's categorizations are not a reliable base for further and general linguistic discussions. In fact, if someone does not already know the field, they should be advised not to read either Porter or Campbell. (Either of them could always reverse themselves and put out a second revised edition. Zondervan might want to consider that for a supposedly introductory level work like Campbell's.)
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